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. I 




• V f 











• * • 

• •• • • 
.• . • ••• 

• • • • • 4 
• • • • • 





COfyrighl, taS4, 

Bv Little, Bhowk, and Cohfahv. 




I. From Boston to Salt Lake City . . 9-27 

II. At Salt Lake City. — To San Fran- 
cisco. — At San Francisco .... 28 

III. From San Francisco to the Yosemite 

Valley ; . 53 

IV. In the Valley 68 

V. From the Valley to the Mariposa 

Grove. — At the Grove 95 

VI. From the Mariposa Grove to San 

Francisco. — The Return no 

Matthew Arnold's Lecture on Emerson . 



TN the spring of 1871 I was a member 
of a party of twelve, including Mr. 
Ralph Waldo Emerson, who went by rail- 
road from Boston to California, and trav- 
elled there for several weeks. This little 
book presents some notes of that journey. 
I kept no diary ; but in writing to a mem- 
ber of my family who was a cousin of 
Mr. Emerson, I was led to speak of him 
often. What follows was prepared after- 
wards to be read to a club; and now, 
for one reason and another, I have come 
to think it well to print it. 

6 Note. 

And yet it is almost too slight a per- 
formance ; the pudding is small, and the 
plums are few. The reader will perhaps 
share my regret that I did not make some 
more careful and set attempt to preserve 
an account of what Mr. Emerson said and 
did, and that I have no record whatever 
of the homeward journey. But it would 
not have seemed quite friendly, in such a 
company, to play the part of a mere Bos- 
well ; nor should I have been willing to 
tamper with my own quiet enjoyment of 
the situation by doing that. It will be 
remembered, also, that some things which 
really were preserved must naturally be 
omitted here, as being of too personal a 
nature for publication. 

These savings from oblivion, then, are 



Note.. 7 

to be regarded as a sort of wreccum maris, 
— to use our pleasant law-Latin, — some- 
thing not nearly so good as one could wish, 
but better than nothing. 


Cambridge, Mass., 

May 25, 1884. 






OUR pleasant travelling party was gath- 
ered by a friend whose name, honored 
and beloved, I must not mention. From 
Chicago to San Francisco and back we 
were his guests, travelling in comfort, and 
even in luxury, in a private Pullman car, 
the " Huron." From Boston to Chicago 
the party found its way piecemeal ; indeed, 
some of the company only joined us at 
Burhngton, on the Mississippi. I was 
among those who left Boston with Mr. 

lO A Western youmey 

Emerson on Tuesday afternoon, the elev- 
enth of April, 1 87 1. At noon of the 
twelfth we crossed the bridge at Niagara, 
and on the morning of the thirteenth we 
were at Chicago, where we passed a day 
and night. On the fourteenth we entered 
the comfortable and well-stored car that 
was to be our inn for the whole of the 
next week. 

Pullman himself saw us off at Chicago : 
a man something over forty years old, as 
I guessed ; rather short, with a beard and . 
close-cut grayish hair; quiet and modest j 
in manner, — a little heavy, perhaps, and 
slow, as he appeared that morning, — and 
yet his words went farther than his manner 
led one to expect. " The car," he quietly 
remarked to Mr. Emerson, **was strong, 
and would bear rolling over and over. 
There was, however, one place where, if 
we were to go off, it would not hold to- 


With Mr. Emerson, ii 

gether; that was just as we should go 

down the Sierra Nevada, at rounding Cape 

Horn ; at that point it was some hundreds 

of feet straight down, and he would n't 

warrant it there. The car and the outfit," 

he added, " was the best that he could do. 

He had submitted his bill of fare to our 

host, who had told him that the party 

I would probably be strong on fruit, but not 

! so strong on wine. We could have as 

' good a dinner as we could get at Parker's 

if we would only order it, — he would 

warrant tkat,'^ 

We only went that day as far as Burling- 
ton, where we passed the night with cor- 
dial friends ; some of these crossed the 
State with us, on the next day, to the 
Missouri River at Council Bluffs. On 
Sunday, the sixteenth, having, meantime, 
passed our first night in the car, and then 
having crossed the river into Nebraska 

12 A Western Journey 

at Omaha, we were attached to the regular 
train of the Union Pacific Railroad, which 
started at noon. 

We were now not quite midway between 
the two oceans, — about fifteen hundred 
miles from Boston, and nearly two thou- 
sand miles from San Francisco. The way 
would now lie, for about five hundred 
miles, along an open, slightly rising coun- 
try to Cheyenne, in the Territory of Wyo- 
ming, where we should arrive at about 
Monday noon ; then, suddenly, up a quick 
ascent of a few hours to Sherman, in the 
Rocky Mountains, more than eight thou- 
sand feet above the sea, — the highest 
point in the whole journey. By that time 
we should have passed something more 
than a third of the distance from Omaha 
to the Pacific. Then we should traverse 
a vast upland region, — always at a great 
height, sometimes seven thousand feet 






With Mr. Emerson. 13 

above the sea, and never lower than 
thirty-nine hundred feet, through more 
than fifteen degrees of longitude, — across 
Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada, to " Sum- 
mit," in California, at the top of the Sierra 
Nevada. With us, this was to be a four 
days' journey ; for meantime we should 
make a detour of twenty-four hours to Salt 
Lake City. On leaving " Summit," at the 
western limit of the great table-land, a 
thousand feet lower than Sherman, we 
were to drop quickly from this great height 
in a few hours ; a hundred miles would 
bring us down to Sacramento, which is 
little more than fifty feet above the sea. 
Then, finally, from Sacramento, a hun- 
dred and fifty miles more would carry us 
over the lovely Coast Range Mountains, 
and down again to San Francisco. By 
t the end of the afternoon of the twenty- 
! first of April we should find ourselves 


14 A Western yourney 

once more at the sea-level which we had 
left, ten days before, at Boston.^ 

Little happened on the way to Chicago ; 
but we had already begun, even in the 
' public cars, to have the queer pleasure that 
one feels at sitting over his dinner, in 
leisurely conversation with a friend, while 
the train is speeding on like mad. Mr. 
Emerson had brought along his purple ; 
satchel, with a book or two. He had with 

^ " The great tangle of mountains which makes up : 

the western third of our territory" is designated by 
Professor J. D. Whitney, the learned and accomplished 
State Geologist of California, as the " Cordilleras," 
limiting this word to North America, and the word 
" Andes " to the corresponding region in South America. 
In his admirable " Yosemite Guide Book " (fourth 
edition, 1874), — the merits of which are very imperfectly 
indicated by its title, — he says, at p. 53: "The Sierra 
Nevada, or Snowy Range, forms the western edge of 
the great continental upheaval, or plateau, on which the .5 

Cordillera are built up. It corresponds in position \ 

to the Rocky Mountains ; the one being the western, ;■ 

the other the eastern, edge of the central portion of the i 


Witk Mr. Emerson, 15 

him, also, the manuscript sheets of his 
" Parnassus/' on which he worked more 
or less with his daughter. This kept his 
mind a good deal on the poets, and he 
talked of them as we raced through the 
State of New York. " * Faust * was a de- 
structive poem : it lacked affirmation ; he 
did not like it. The second part was only 
a sketch. But his knowledge of this was 
only partial." Something was said of im- 


\ mass. The base of the Rocky Mountains, however, is 

'{ four thousand feet above the sea-level, and the slope 
1 from it eastward is almost imperceptible, but continuous 


' for six hundred miles to the Mississippi ; while from the 
; crest of the Sierra Nevada we descend rapidly, in less 
; than a hundred miles, to very near the level of the sea. 
; The plateau between the two ranges is nearly a thousand 
*;' miles wide, having here its greatest development ana its 
maximum altitude ; while the subordinate ranges piled 
upon it here exhibit their greatest regularity of trend 
and structure." The Salt Lake Valley is a little higher 
than the Yosemite, and the latter is four thousand feet 
above the sea. 

1 6 A Western youniey 

agination and fancy, and of the old discrimi- 
nations between them. There was a copy 
of Wordsworth at hand, and reference was 
made to one of the prefaces, where it is 
said of comparisons formed by the imagina- 
tion, that " a sense of the truth of the like- 
ness, from the moment that it is perceived, 
grows and continues to grow upon the 
mind/' "Yes," he said, "imagination is 
the solemn act of the soul in believing that 
things have a spiritual significance. It 
uses words simply as a .vehicle for con- 
veying that.'* William Morris was men- 
tioned; he liked his poems, but "deplored 
the quantity that he writes." 

As we crossed Illinois, in the long, de- 
lightful leisure of our first day in the 
" Huron," Mr. Emerson began by pulling 
out of his satchel a little German diction- 
ary and a small volume that Mr. George 
Bancroft had sent him as a New Year's 

With Mr, Emerson, 17 

present, Goethe's "Spriiche in Prosa" (Ber- 
lin : Von Loeper, 1870). " He found it an 
excellent time to study his German, in the 
cars." He turned over the leaves of his 
book and read aloud some sentences from 
it; among them was Donatus's Pereant 
qui ante nos nostra dixerunt " Of Do- 
natus," he said, " he had first heard from 
Landor, who quoted from him poetry of 
Julius Caesar." And then he settled 
down and went on with his studies ; but 
not long. He quietly began to talk again ; 
and something brought up Swedenborg : 
"Swedenborg was like Linnaeus, or those 
who devised the nomenclature of chemis- 
try, — a sort of classifier of souls." But 
he praised him, and advised me to read 
^^ "Arcana." "The ' Conjugial Love' 
s good also; but * conjugial' was such 
illy word." Mention was made of F. W., 
d of the excellent promise that he and 


A Western Journey 

some others of the younger clergy gave. 
"The minister," said he, "is in no danger 
of losing his position ; he represents the 
moral sense and the humanities." He 
spoke of his own reasons for leaving the 
pulpit, and added that " some one had 
lately come to him whose conscience 
troubled him about retaining the name 
of Christian ; he had replied that he him- 
self had no difficulty about it. When he 
was called a Platonist, or a Christian, or a 
Republican, he welcomed it It did not 
bind him to what he did not like. What is 
the use of going about and setting up a 
flag of negation .' " 

At Council Bluffs we were switched off 
upon a side track, where we passed the 
Saturday night. In the morning I was 1 
at five o'clock to explore the town. iL 
grew accustomed to a long morning aXg 
a late breakfast ; when the same rool 

With Mr, Emerson. 19 

serves for bed room and breakfast room, 
one must wait till the last person is up. 
And then cooking for a family, in the little 
three-foot kitchen that such a car can have, 
is a slow business ; dishes have to be pre- 
pared separately, and then set to wait till 
others are done in succession. But as to 
my own early morning hours, I was happy, 
for Mr. Emerson also was an early riser, 
and I often met him at the washbowl. It 
was so on this still, bright Sunday morn- 
ing at the western edge of Iowa. We 
walked up into the town. He talked of 
Froude, and of a plan that he should come 
here to lecture. He had known him for- 
merly with Clough and Stanley, and had 
/ just been writing to England about him. 
And then he mentioned Henry VIII and 
Shakspeare's play, and " wished he could 
know about that play, it is so unlike the 
others in its versification." He spoke of 

20 A Western yourney 

Miss Mary Rotch, of New Bedford, a 
Quaker, for whom he had a great respect. 
"He had supplied Dr. Dewey's pulpit at 
New Bedford once, and knew her well. 
She was a thoughtful person, who saw 
everybody's limitations in matters of re- 
ligion ; a very noble person, who held to 
that sense of what she should do, to which 
the consent of the whole world could not 
give authority, nor its opposition diminish 
it. One would say to her, *Well, Aunt 
Mary* (everybody called her * Aunt Mary '), 
'what is this "light" that you speak of?* 
*It is not a thing,' she would reply, *to be 
talked about.'" 

The train of the Union Pacific Railroad 
was to begin its journey at Omaha, on the 
other side of the river, and our car was 
carried over in a boat. 

From Council Bluffs we looked down 
over four miles of meadow, or " bottom," 



WitA Mr, Emerson, 21 

stretching away towards the town of 
Omaha, that lay scattered loosely over 
the beautiful easterly slopes of another 
great bluff, like that where we stood. The 
river was well over towards the western 
• side. When we reached it, late in the 
forenoon, we found it running furiously, — 
deep, raging, tawny, full of mud ; on the 
other side were shallows ; on ours the 
steamboat came close up to the bank, and 
the water was cutting fast into the fine 
prairie earth, so that it was dangerous to 
go near the edge. The little wooden rail- 
road offices were moved back from day to 
day as their footing was in danger of being 
-^ undermined, and were mounted accord- 
ingly on rollers. The building of a bridge 
had been already begun, and the sinking 
of the iron supports, out in the river, down 
to the solid rock through sixty and eighty 
feet of sand and earth, was then going on. 

A Western J'oumey 

It was more than two days from Om^ 
to Salt Lake City. When we had id 
Omaha, we came soon to a sort of country 
very different from the rich prairies of 
Iowa, — a treeless, shrubless, flat region 
of red earth, with some starveling grass 
and weeds ; " this poor, flat, worn-out com- 
mon," was Mr. Emerson's name for it. 
This was the fiftieth year since his grad- 
uation at Harvard, and his Class was to 
have a celebration. He spoke with great 
respect of his classmate, Mr. Francis 
Lowell, of Waltham : " Mr. Lowell had 
said to him that he did not think he had 
ever expressed to another more feeling 
about him than he really had." I referred 
to another of his classmates, and asked if 
he had read a certain book of his. " No," 
he said, laughing ; " he never reads my 
books. I don't know why I should read 
his." Of a certain stout friend he said : 

With Mr. Emerson. 



" P., a prudent, staid man, took him up 
when young, and sent him abroad. When, 
years afterwards, his young friend returned, 
it was a wonder how P. could get on with 
this lively person, all outside and nothing 
inside, — this disjointed, mindless sort of 
person." He repeated Tennyson's lines 
about the eagle : — 

" He clasps the crag with hooked hands ; 
Close to the sun in lonely lands, 
Ringed with the azure world, he stands. 
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls ; 
He watches from his mountain walls, 
And like a thunderbolt he falls." 

He admired it. But there should be some 
hint, he thought, of the fish or the prey 
upon which the bird is pouncing. He re- 
ferred to the lines in " In Memoriam " 
beginning, — 

" Calm and still light on yon great plain,*' — 

as a wonder for their compactness. He 



24 A Western Joumey 


^- had lost sight of Keats's sonnet about Chap- 

\ man's "Homer," and some one tried to 

\ repeat it to him. It was gradually picked 

out, but it took till the next morning to 
bring back the erroneous " Cortez " and his 
staring at the Pacific. It was a peculiar 
pleasure, afterwards, when we, too, had 
come to the Pacific, to go with Mr. Emer- 
son and verify the lines in the Public 
Library at San Francisco. 

In climbing the Rocky Mountains tcy 
Sherman, on the seventeenth, we had the 
comfort of seeing a few trees. Then we 
crossed the high grazing country of the 
Laramie Plains, and saw antelopes, like 
small deer, that scampered swiftly away, 
shaking their white tails. No buffaloes 
were seen in all the journey. The plains 
j were covered with a low, dusty, aromatic 

shrub, the wild sage. In the night we 
passed the "divide," — at a lower point, 


WM Mr, Emerson. 25 

however, than Sherman, — and flew through \,, 

a country covered with snow. This was 

the alkali region ; we had already reached 

this tract as the night came on, and 

felt, or seemed to feel, in the air a faint 

suggestion of potash or saleratus ; but by 

and by the dust ceased, and snow covered 

the plain. 

Mr. Emerson had been dining that day 
with one of the ladies, and told her a large 
story about an acquaintance of his son, in 
California, who had a vineyard, and who 
at last fell, so it was said, off a bridge into 
the water, and was eaten by an alligator ! 
"Nowadays," he added, "one must finish 
off a story well. Perhaps this might not 
be exact." " But yet observe," said his 
companion, willing to vindicate the ac- 
curacy of the tale, " the man had a vine- 
yard, and the alligator didn't eat that!" 
This suggestion was tendered with an 

26 A Western journey 

appearance of candor that took Mr. Emer- 
son's breath away for a minute ; but he 
recovered, laughed, and with a nod, slowly 
and dubiously remarked: "Yes, that de- 
serves to be considered. But it is, perhaps, 
not conclusive ! " 

On the next day, the eighteenth, we 
were coming down towards Ogden in 
the Salt Lake Valley, — descending some 
twenty-six hundred feet, through a series 
of magnificent cafLons. We all stood on 
the platform, and slighted dinner. At first 
we looked curiously at the rocks along 
the road. On the left the mountains 
sloped up, covered with the gray-green 
sage-bush. On the right they became 
abrupt walls and buttresses of gravelly 
rock. Soon the gorge grew impressive, 
from the narrowness of it, and from the 
vast height of the steep walls, and the 
inexpressible beauty of great towering 

With Mr, Emerson, 2J 

peaks, covered with snow, that rose high 
about us. At last, when every variety 
seemed to have been exhausted, we were 
suddenly silenced and stunned by a suc- 
cession of high, magnificent isolated but- 
tresses of red rock, curiously rounded and, 
as it were, carved. And then came another 
cafion, and another. At last we slid swiftly 
out, near Ogden, into the vast, fat plains 
of the Salt Lake region, where cherries 
and peaches were in blossom, and men 
were ploughing. 

Here we separated our car from the 
Pacific train, and turned south. Through 
this magnificent valley, after leaving Og- 
den, we ran to Salt Lake City and stayed 
there — living in our car, — till the next 
day at noon. 



WE arrived at Salt Lake City in the 
early evening. Bills of a perform- 
ance at the theatre that night had been 
distributed on the train ; it was to be " Mar- 
riage by Moonlight ; or, the Wild-Cat's 
Revenge/' with the introduction upon the 
stage, it was added, of " a real pile-driver." 
Seven of us, including Mr. Emerson, went 
at once to see this. The interest of the play 
culminated when the hero, being drunk, 
had been placed by some other ruffians 
with his head under the " real pile-driver." 
The weight was to descend at the last 
stroke of seven ; six of the strokes had 
passed, when the heroine, the " Wild-Cat," 

A Western Journey, 


bounded forth and rescued the gentleman. 
The thin audience appeared to us a mel- 
ancholy company. 

The next morning I was out early. 
Rain and snow had fallen in the night, and 
covered the black paste of their prairie 
soil with a shallow slosh. I picked my way 
along the sidewalk to the open meadow. 
The sky was gray and clouds lay on the 
beautiful mountains that overhang the town 
to the north and east ; away off to the 
west and south, snowy mountain ranges 
were shining in the sun. Brooks ran 
gurgling along each sidewalk ; it was pretty 
to hear them in the dark as we went to 
the theatre the night before. All this 
water had been led in from the mountains 
by the Mormons. Already the little chan- 
nels of the brooks were bordered with 
tender grass, and the trees that were 
planted everywhere along the two sides of 


A Western Journey 

the roads sucked in vigor from the water 
at their roots. There are no trees on the 
mountains, and in all the enormous spaces 
within eyeshot none are seen except these 
along the streets and in the gardens of the 
town. And these have all been planted 
by the Mormons since they came here 
in 1847. 

I soon reached the edge of the meadow, 
and came upon a young fellow standing 
near his little adobe house, who had just 
shot at some ducks. We fell into a talk. 
He was nephew to W., a high Mormon, 
whose name I recognized, and he had 
lived with his uncle's family. It consisted 
of the uncle's six wives and twenty-five 
children, — "a small family," he added; 
" some have forty and fifty children, and 
even more. They live very pleasantly," 
he said ; " each wife has a separate estab- 
lishment, — a separate kitchen, and other 


With Mr, Emerson, 31 

apartments, — and each looks after her own 
children." His uncle he pronounced to 
be " one of the best men on this earth." 
"The President" (so they all designated 
Brigham Young), " to the best of his 
knowledge, had sixteen wives ; he knew 
these, and they were fine, lady-like women." 
As to the number of Young's children he 
could not say. My own information, from 
other sources, gave Young all the way 
from thirty-two children to sixty or seventy. 
The young man was a good-looking fel- 
low ; " not exactly a Mormon," was his 
phrase, but evidently he was no opposer of 
them. " The Gentiles," he said, " get on 
very well here if they mind their own 
business ; as they generally do, — excepting 
some of the scum that have come in here, 
who want to interfere with everything." 
By this time we had grown cool in the 
damp air, and easily fell apart. 


A Western Journey 

I returned to the station, where our car 
was, and found the platform in charge of 
a stubbed, gray-haired old Englishman, of 
straightforward qualities. He was a Mor- 
mon, but had only one wife. He had 
lived at East Boston once, and had preached 
Mormonism in Boston fifteen years ago, 
I asked him to preach now to me, and to 
tell me why one should be a Mormon. 
" Well," he said, " they believed in the 
Bible, and held that there were prophets 
and apostles now. No one need practise 
polygamy unless he liked. They held to 
it because it was the usage of Abraham, 
and Isaac, and Moses, and the rest ; it was 
in order to raise up a righteous seed to 
God, and to obey the command to Adam, 
to multiply and replenish the earth." The 
old fellow seemed serious and well-meaning. 
And indeed all through this town, even 
in the shops, one found in the people a 

Wilk Mr. Emerson. 


certain flavor o£ religion, — a subdued and 
virtuous air, as of those who felt them- 

;e]ves to be own brothers to the early 

In the forenoon most of the men of our 

larty called upon Brigham Young ; the 
ladies declined, with thanks. Young's car- 
riage was waiting for him at the door, but 
a card was sent in, and we were admitted. 
" The President " soon entered the room 
arrayed for his drive, his long cloak on, and 
his hat in hand. He was a man of not 
over medium height, full-blooded, and with 
the look of some stout stage-driver who 
had prospered and been used to authority. 
His face was smooth, except for whiskers 
of a reddish cast touched with gray. His 
hair, rather thin and of a like color, seemed 
wet, and was parted behind and brushed 
or rather rolled up on the top, in a cheap 
way that one might see on a teamster at 

34 -^ Western Journey 

a ball, or on a teamster's child that had 
just left the hands of its mother. He 
shook hands all round with a stolid sort 
of dignity, and sat down. His mouth 
was close, his nose somewhat aquiline, his 
eye quiet but cunning, his manner good, 
and steady. A little talk sprang up, — 
not without its difficulties. Some one 
spoke to Young of what we had liked 
about his town, and said that he had had 
an excellent opportunity to show what com- 
bined labor could do, and the directing 
power of a single man ; and he unluckily 
used the phrase, "the one-man power." 
" Yes," said Young, quickly, ** the one-man 
power! It 's easy to talk about that ! We 
have no more of it than they have else- 
where ! " Alas, we had not begun well.^ 

1 We found afterwards that he had lately preached 
a sermon, printed that very day, in which he had 
touched upon the " one-man power." " Is it our abil- 


With Mr, Emerson, 35 

But this was smoothed over, and we tried 
again. Much excitement was existing just 
then about newly discovered mines in 
Utah. He intimated that he cared little 
about them, and did not expect much from 
them. Mr. Emerson asked him what books 
there were from which one could get a 
correct impression of their opinions. He 
said, shortly: "There were none. They 
did n't print anything." But his secretary, 

ity," he said, ** that has accomplished what we see here 
in building up a colony in the wilderness? Is it the 
doings of man ? No. To be sure, we assist in it, and 
we do as we are directed. But God is our captain; 
he is our master. He is the * one mart * that we serve. 
. . . What do you suppose I think when I hear people 
say, * Oh, see what the Mormons have done in the 
mountains. It is Brigham Young. What a head he 
has got I What power he has got ! How well he 
controls the people ! ' The people are ignorant of our 
true character. It is the Lord that has done this. It 
is not any one man or set of men ; only as we are led 
and guided by the Spirit of truth." 

36 A Western Jotimey 

a thin, pallid young man, intervened, and 
suggested to Young that there was a book, 
"Answers to Questions." "Yes," Young 
replied, " that was good ; as good as any- 
thing." He gave no sign of knowing who 
Mr. Emerson was ; but the secretary soon 
turned to one of us, and with a motion 
towards Mr. Emerson, inquired, in a pub- 
lic way : " Is this the justly celebrated 
Ralph Waldo Emerson } " and then to Mr. 
Emerson: **I have read a great many of 
your books." We were then desired to 
enter our names in a register, and so took 
our leave. 

We afterwards found a copy of "The 
Deseret News" of that same day, April 
19, containing Young's sermon to which I 
referred before.^ It was a strange dis- 

1 The following are extracts from the sermon : 
" Now, gamblers, stop your gambling here, and go to 
work; that is my advice. *Well but,* say some, *we 

With Mr. Emerson. 37 

course, — patriarchal, giving much homely 
good advice, marked by quaint sense, and 
yet flavored also with a revolting mixture 
of religious fanaticism and vulgar dis- 
honesty. Mr. Emerson was a good deal 
interested by a certain power in the ad- 
dress, and a certain homespun sense. 

are not going to be instructed by Brigham Young/ 
Who cares for that ? If you will not receive my instruc- 
tions, instruct yourselves. I want you to see, in and of 
yourselves, that your life is a poor miserable life of 
waste, a disgrace to the human family. Go to work ; 
improve the country, build towns and cities, set out 
shade-trees, build school-houses and meeting-houses, 
and worship what you please, we do not care what. 
Be civil, honest in your deals, be upright, do not take 
that which belongs to your neighbor ; and miners, do 
not go to law, and lawyers, go to work." 

"Who put flour into the barrels here when we 
were destitute and had nothing to eat ? The women 
would go and scrape the precious barrel, and take out 
the last half-ounce of meal, and make up a little cake 
to divide among the children; and perhaps the next 
time they would go to the barrel they would find it half 

38 A Western youmey 

We left Salt Lake City in the afternoon, 
returned to Ogden, and started westward 
again at once. It was still nearly nine 
hundred miles to San Francisco, and we 
should reach it in two days. At sunset 
we were scudding along close by the Great 
Salt Lake. The northern edge of its large 
expanse (it is about a hundred and twenty 
six miles long), lay right under the car 

full of flour. Who put it in ? Their neighbors ? No ; 
they had none to put in. Was it from the States ? If 
it was, they who brought it must have flown through 
the air, for they could not have brought it with ox- 
teams quite so quickly ... I know now, and knew 
then, that these elements that we live in are full of all 
that we produce from the earth, air, and water. I told 
the people when we settled here that ... all we had 
to do was to ^<^ to work and organize the elements. 
How far Jesus went to get the wine that was put into 
the pots which we read about in the account of the 
marriage of Cana in Galilee, I do not know; but I 
know that he had power to call the elements that enter 
into the grape into those pots of water, unperceived by 
anybody in the room." 

With Mr, Emersoft, 39 

windows ; ducks in profusion were flying 
and settling on the water, purple mountains 
were in the distance, and behind these the 
sun was setting in majesty. Presently we 
were running along under a snow-covered 
range of mountains ; and the soft tints and 
changes of light on these engaged every 
one's attention. And then it was over. 
Mr. Emerson had dropped his writing to 
see it all, and now turned to one of the 
ladies : " Well, what are you going to do 
about this, — all this beauty?" She an- 
swered : " You say somewhere that it is 
better to die for beauty than to live for 
bread." At which he murmured a little, 
good-naturedly, and was silent. Then he 
began to talk of the Mormons. Some one 
said, "They impress the common people, 
through their imagination, by Bible names 
and imagery." ** Yes," he said ; " it is an 
after-clap of Puritanism. But one would 

40 A Western Journey 

think that after this Father Abraham could 
go no further." 

We woke on the twentieth in Nevada, 
in a desolate, barren country ; a few 
slunted cedars were about us, and the 
everlasting sage-bush, growing in tufts 
over the plains ; and snowy mountains lay, 
on both sides, along the not-distant hori- 
zon. At a little watering-station it A\as 
delightful, in the early morning, to step out 
into the stillness and the clear, invigorating 
air. Pools of water were just skimmed 
with ice ; the sun was shining, and a single 
meadow-lark was singing its pretty note. 
Two or three Chinamen — laborers, prob- 
ably, upon the railroad — were standing 
near a little hut close by, and a white dog 
was jumping and playing about them ; the 
language of good-will, at any rate, was 
understood between them. During the 
day we saw many Indians, — short and dirty 

WM Mr. Emerson, 41 

creatures, — Utes and Shoshones. Their 
wigwams of skin, all smoky at the open 
top, were visible here and there on the 
plains. These squalid people stood about 
at the stations, idly looking on, or asking 
money and food ; some were in blankets, 
red or gray ; some had their faces stained 
with red earth, all over or in stripes. The 
boys put the paint on thickest. The 
women had brass rings on their wrists, 
— sometimes a dozen on each. At one 
station Chinamen stood watching the 
Indians ; we remarked a resemblance be- 
tween theni, especially in the high check- 
bones; but their eyes were different. And 
then the Indians, although destitute of 
beards, had hair that was like horsehair, — 
heavy, long, coarse, black, lying thick above 
their low foreheads and hanging about 
their heads, and held in their teeth some- 
times to keep it still. 

42 A Western yourftey 

We passed on this day through the 
canons of the Humboldt River, — torn, 
jagged, barren rocks and cliffs, that looked 
as if wasted by a hundred centuries of 
lightning and storm ; then through an 
alkaline region, where the surface of the 
ground was white like a city street that 
has been watered with salt water ; but the 
alkali was thicker. ** This all reminds me," 
said Mr. Emerson, "of the Bible and of 
Asia/' In the afternoon we were still 
running through this level alkali-country 
in Nevada. There were no trees ; nothing 
but the sage-bush, and a prickly shrub, 
and a sort of Scotch broom. Steam was 
rising here and there away off, showing 
where a hot-spring lay ; and snow-covered 
mountains, in the distance, rested against 
a blue sky which was tender and misty 
in the horizontal air. By evening we 
had entered on what is called the Great 

. ^.via 

With Mr. Emerson, 43 

Nevada Desert ; and now were troubled 
by the alkali dust until sleep came. 

On Friday morning, April 21, we waked 
in California, among the tops of the Sierra 
Nevada. Snow was all about us, and great 
pine-forests ; it was good for New Eng- 
land eyes to see trees once more. Pres- 
ently we began to go through lines of 
snow-sheds, like a covered bridge ; and 
then it was time to be up. There was 
still a long, long stretch of sheds ; in all, 
so the guide-book told us, there were over 
forty miles of them. At last we came out 
of the sheds ; and instead of snow, found 
grass and green trees, and, at a stopping 
place, heard robins and picked flowers. 
At seven o'clock they put on an observa- 
tion-car, — much like an open street-car. 
Into that we all got ; and for twenty miles 
and over, to Colfax, where the train stops 
for breakfast, we passed wonderful things. 


A tVestern journey 

The air was soft and spring-like, and the 
sun struck down into the great gorges 
through the trees below us, drenching the 
tree-tops with light, and throwing their soft 
and misty shadows below. Finally came 
what they call "rounding Cape Horn," of 
which Pullman had told us, — where the 
train is carried by a road cut into the moun- 
tain, along the side of it, away up near its 
top. You look straight down off the car a 
depth of fourteen hundred feet, a fearful 
distance, into the valley of the American 
River. But what a pretty sight it was 1 
At the bottom, right under us, was set a 
little plain, — smooth, grass-covered, with 
peach-trees in blossom, and purple flowers, 
and the ground fairly gilded in spots with 
yellow flowers. We passed swiftly on, aad I 
left it all ; and one recalled Mr. Emerson's | 
own lines on such transitory glories, wher&'a 
he speaks, in the " Threnody," of whati 

With Mr, Emerson, 45 

** rainbows show and sunsets teach ; " we 
could not detain it. After this there was 
a general falling back, as if we had done 
enough for the present, and we sat down 
gladly to breakfast. When the train stopped 
at Colfax, we found ourselves in the midst 
of June ; trees and roses were in blossom, 
the grass was waving, the vegetS.bles were 
all up in the gardens, and every one was 
happy in the mere delight of living. I 
kept silently quoting to myself: "In this 
refulgent summer, it is a luxury to draw 
the breath of life." I will say no more of 
the quite inexpressible happiness of that 
forenoon in which we came down the 
mountain. I stood upon the rear platform 
alone with Mr. Emerson. He said nothing, 
except now and then a mere utterance of 
delight ; and it was the only time in the 
whole journey when one would have hated 
to have the silence broken, even by him. 

46 A Western journey 

We arrived at San Francisco by the end 
of the afternoon, and went to the Occi- 
dental Hotel. 

I came out of my room the next morn- 
ing at about eight o'clock, and met Mr. 
Emerson in the passage-way. As we 
were going downstairs, Dr. Horatio Steb- 
bins, the distinguished successor to Starr 
King in the Unitarian pulpit of San Fran- 
cisco, met us with a cordial welcome. 
He wished Mr. Emerson to promise at 
once to speak at his church the next night ; 
this was readily agreed to. He also 
wished to drive Mr. Emerson and any 
two others of the party that forenoon 
out to the Cliff House, on the sea-shore, 
some seven miles away. At breakfast 
came other invitations. Word came that 
Mr. Ralston had placed a saddle-horse at 

Mr. 's disposal, and wished the party 

to dine with him some day. Another 


Wzt/i Mk Emerson. 47 

gentleman called, and desired us all to save 
him two days to visit a Spanish ranch ; 
and there were several other calls. We had 
been telegraphed, as indeed passengers 
were regularly telegraphed, from Ogden. 

I made the third that morning, with 
Mr. Emerson and his daughter, in driving 
with Dr. Stebbins. We passed through 
the Chinese quarter, and out over beautiful 
grassy hills, covered with blue and yellow 
lupine and a hundred delightful flowers ; 
and soon we, too, " stared at the Pacific.** 
Mr. Emerson was delighted as we drove 
along the beach of the great new ocean. 
We sat long on the platform of the ClifE 
House, and rested, and watched the sea- 
lions that climbed and played on some 
rocks a short way out in the ocean, and 
at the birds that settled by hundreds on 
the same rocks. The sea-lions looked like 
common seals (but much larger) as they 

A Western 'journey 

crawlet! up out of the sea and played with 
each other, or tumbled back again, or lay 
flat in the sun, or raised their heads and 
threw back their necks, and wagged them 
about, smooth and shiny, with the move- 
ment and general aspect of a leech. We 
returned, and dined at six. Mr. Emerson 
was in excellent spirits, and laughed as he 
told of one of the young ladies having 
weighed with him at the station in Chey- 
enne, and weighed more than he did ; " but 
he meant to gain something." "Yes," said 
she, " but I shall gain too." " No," he an- 
swered, "your habits are the same as be- 
fore ; but mine have all gone to pieces 
out here ! " Then he turned to me : " How 
much did I weigh ? A hundred and 
forty ? " " A hundred and forty and a 
half," was the answer. " Yes, yes ; a hun- 
dred and forty and a half! That half I 
prize ; it 's an indication of better things ! " 

WitA Mr, Emerson. 

The next evening, Sunday, the twenty-j 
third, Mr. Emerson read his address on 
"Immortality" at Dr. Stebbins's church. 
It was the first time that he had spoken on 
the Western coast ; never did he speak 
better. It was, in the main, the same noble 
essay that has since been printed. At break- 
fast the next morning we had the newspaper, 
the "Alta California." It gave a meagre 
outline of the address, but praised it warmly, 
and closed with the following observations : 
" All left the church feeling that an ele- 
gant tribute had been paid to the creative 
genius of the Great First Cause, and that 
a masterly use of the English language 
had contributed to that end." Mr. Emer- 
son took his full share of enjoyment in 
this passage, and laughed with that quiet 
ground-swell of a laugh that his friends_| 
remember. There was another visit that 
day with Mr, Emerson to the sea-beach, 


A Westeryi yoiiniey 

and a survey that night of the Chinese 
quarter, — of their theatre and gambling- 
houses, opium-dens, restaurants, and Joss- 
houses; and, later on, there were visits to 
the cellars of the great wine manufactories, 
and other places. The Chinese opiura- 
dens were fearful things. "There is not 
much aspiration there, — or inspiration," 
said Mr. Emerson, as our party came out ; 
and he expressed his wonder at the strange 
way ill which our civilization seemed to fail 
to take hold of these people, and at their 
persistence in herding and huddling to- 
gether, when there was such vast room all 
about them. 

We called one day on some friends who 
showed Mr. Emerson certain works of art ; 
among them were three valuable paintings 
asserted to be originals, — two Cimabues 
and a Giotto. " They are," said Mr, Emer- 
son, as we came away, " vastly old ; and 

the Giotto goes to justify the remark of 
Vasari, that this painter had improved art 
by putting more goodness into his faces." 

Miss ,a Concord girl whom he knew, 

a famous skater, was now in San Fran- 
cisco, performing in public as "The Ska- 
torial Qiiecu," Mr. Emerson had sent her 
a ticket for one of his lectures, — for he 
had by this time engaged for a short 
course of lectures. " She had sent him 
one," he said, "for her entertainment, and 
had kindly said that if he came late she 
would with pleasure repeat her skating. 
As their performances heretofore had 
been on the same night, they had not yet 
been able to see each other ; but he meant 
to see her yet." We met a man one day 
who showed us a well-rubbed horse-chest- 
nut which he carried in his pocket as a 
preventive against rheumatism ; and Mr. 
Emerson told lis of his friend A., who once 

52 A Western youmey, 

produced his horse-chestnut with the re- 
mark that it worked well; he had never 
had the rheumatism since he began to 
carry it ; " and indeed," added A., " it 
appears to have had a retrospective 
operation ; for I never had it before ! " 

On the twenty-seventh Mr. Emerson and 
two or three others of our party went by 
water to Vallejo, and by rail along the 
lovely Napa Valley to Calistoga. Others 
of the party had alfeady gone forward to 
the same point. Most of us went on from 
Calistoga to the Geysers ; but Mr. Emer- 
son was bound by lecture engagements, 
and he and one or two others returned 
in a leisurely way through the Sonoma 
Valley to the city. 


ON the second of May we started 
for the Yosemiie Valley, — all but 
one of the younger ladies. The journey 
took three days and a half : first, a fore- 
noon eastward in the cars ; then, still east- 
ward, two days in large, four-horse, covered 
wagons, open at the sides ; and then two 
long halt-days on horseback. On the way 
out it was my good fortune to be in the 
same wagon with Mr. Emerson. His talk 
was mainly with the three others, who were 
the older members of the party. I was on 
the front seat with the driver; but the seats 
were all on a level, and there was no parti- 


A Western Journey 

lion ; and I could hear without the respon- 
sibility of conversation, and was at leisure 
to watch the novel and engaging sights 
through which we were passing. We drove 
over a level and dusty prairie, the great val- 
ley of the San Joaquin, — what they call, up 
in the mountains, the " Great Sand Plains." 
The wheat which had struggled to cover 
the plains (there was no grass in all the 
immense expanse) was sadly stunted, and 
already, even so early in the season, it was 
drying up. Little ground-squirrels in pro- 
fusion scampered about us all the way, and 
suddenly whisked into their holes ; while 
small owls sat gravely at the opening of 
these same holes, and as we drew near 
dropped quietly down into them, or flew 
away. These last were a dapper, gray lit- 
tle gentry, with wings that closed in front 
like a Quaker's shad-belly coat. There, i 
were magpies also, with long tails ; and j 

Wii^ Mr. Emerson. 


there were small blackbirds, with yellow 
breasts and heads, that flew along in front 
of us in successive shoals, and alighted on 
the fence ; and then flew on, and again 
alighted; and at last darted off into the 
iields. Big gray hares, with long and wide 
ears, which stood permanently up and stuck 
forward, ran all about; "jackass-rabbits" 
they called them, and called them well. 

As we went on, it was hard to get water 
for the horses. We found a well, however, 
at one place, — eighty feet to the water ; it 
was not stoned, and a broad platform at the 
top alone saved one from his fears of a 
caving in. Then we came in sight of the 
Tuolumne River,^ on the banks of which, 
farther up, we were to lodge for the night. 
A pretty sight it was, as we looked across 
its narrow green meadow, sunk below the 
level of the plain, — with oak-trees here 
' Pronounced Toxillumy, 

56 A Western Journey 

and there, and fields of thriving wheat and 
of barley and oats mixed and growing to- 
gether for fodder. The sun behind us was 
sinking, and its light streamed across the 
meadow and kindled its bright, refreshing 
green. We heard here the meadow-lark 
of California, whose sweet, plaintive note 
is like that of the wood-thrush. 

At last we drew near Roberts's Ferry, and 
had accomplished twenty-three miles. A 
team of twelve mules was coming in at the 
same time, dragging two wagons hitched 
together and loaded with merchandise for 
the upper country, — chests of tea, scythe- 
handles, crockery, chairs, and the like. 
There was little at the ferry but Roberts's 
own houses and barns. He was a Boston 
boy ; but his wife was from the West, and 
she gave us quantities of liver and pork 
to eat, and hot sateratus biscuits. But we 
had also native wine, fresh from the press, 

IVil/t Mr. Emerson. 


which was really nice. A single Chinaman 
of most unregenerate manners slopped 
about in our service. Some of us before 
dinner went to the river, and the younger 
men went in to bathe ; but they came out 
quicker than they went in, for it was cold 
and swift, and of a chocolate color, — 
stained with red earth from the placer- 
mining in the mountains. The miners 
keep Sunday, — so Roberts told us ; and 
on Monday mornings the river certifies 
their virtue, and runs clear. 

It had been a tropical day. We sat in 
the evening on the uncovered platform 
that ran about the house, and the air was 
dry and soft. Some one spoke of going 
to bed. " To me," said Mr. Emerson, 
quietly and in a solid way, " this is de- 
lightful ; I enjoy the passing hour." He 
had talked a good deal on the drive over, 
and some things I had caught. Some one 

A Western yourney 


spoke of immortality, quoting an argument 
from science. " The soul," he replied, " has 
a hint quite independent of that. Why is 
this insatiable desire to know and learn ? 
We feel that we should be in a manner 
wronged if there were nothing more. 
Goethe said that if he used all his powers, 
Nature was bound to give him another 
term. The soul feels that it is in com- 
munication with the source of things ; and 
it knows." " The future has as much to 
ofTer us as the past has had ; if we were not 
preached at so much we should easily let 
things pass, observe them, and say : ' We 
have seen the last of that' In heaven I 
think we shall only be shown things once ; 
in the best world they will have so much 
to show us that we can only see them 
once." " The soul deals with space as it 
does with time; when the spiritual life 
takes place, things are neither here i 

WifA Mr, Emerson. 59 

there." Some one spoke of E. H., and 
said that she seemed a very timid person. 
" Ah ! ** said he, "but she was one who had 
said to herself: 'Well, if the ^xo, should 
burn me ! ' " 1 

The twelve mules lay outside that night, 
hitched to the poles of their wagons ; and 
it was like something in Chaucer to see 
them. Early in the morning we were off, 
and crossed the ferry. We were rising as 
we travelled, now; and soon we came to 
a rolling country, and then to the foot- 
hills, and at last, after forty miles, to 
Coulterville, which is fairly in the moun- 
tain region. Our companions, the little 
owls and squirrels and "jackass-rabbits," 
had attended us at first in full numbers ; 

1 There is a difficulty in presenting such a remark 
on paper. The reader needs some hint of Mr. Emer- 
son's look and accent to get his suggestion of a martyr's 


A Wesiei'n Jotirney 

especially a quantity of squirrels, clawing 
along like mad, as we rumbled by, — just 
as if their predecessors hadn't been doing 
the same thing all the afternoon before. 
We came to " Morley's Well," where there 
was a big trough and a sign-board, with 
this odd inscription: "Water for horses; 
none for old wagons." Morley himself 
stood leaning on his barn-yard fence as we 

came up, and asked him what the 

sign meant. " Well," he answered, " some- 
times a wagon comes along, and they want 
five pails of water just to wet the axle ! " 

Mr. Emerson had been sitting that day J 
on the back seat, and I only half heard.l 
his talk. At Coulterville we found thea 
hotel kept by a Mr. Clark, a Franklin -medal J 
scholar from the Boston schools. He had J 
been a sailor out of New Bedford ; then i 
miner for many years ; and now he was 
keeping a school here. He had temporaril}^ 

JVii/i Mr. Emerson. 

added hotel-keeping to his other duties, 
while the landlord was away for a little 
time. After tea I sat with Mr. Emerson 
in the warm, summer-like evening, and 
smoked and listened to the crickets. " When 
alone," he said, " he rarely cared to finish a 
whole cigar. But in company it was singu- 
lar to see how different it was. To one who 
found it difficult to meet people, as he did, 
the effect of a cigar was agreeable ; one 
who is smoking may be as silent as he 
likes, and yet be good company. And so 
Hawthorne used to say that he found it." 
On this journey Mr. Emerson generally 
smoked a single cigar after our mid-day 
dinner, or after tea, and occasionally after 
both. This was multiplying, several times 
over, anything that was usual with him 
at home.^ There were only three of the 

1 Like Milton, Mr. Emerson "waa extraordinary 
temperat in his Diet," and he used even less tobacco. 

A Weslem Journey 

party who smoked at all. While we were 
on the car our retiring-room was the rear 
platform and a little back passage-way. 
There was no car behind us, and few 
things could be more delightful than these 
peaceful sessions, as we talked and looked 
out at the flying landscape. 

On the next day, May 4, we were off 
again in our wagons by seven o'clock. We 
mounted now for twenty miles, through 
open groves of magnificent evergreens, to 
a height of sixty-five hundred feet above 
the sea; then, at Hazel Green, we left our 
wagons and travelled horseback through 
the same sort of forest, descending for the 
most part and occasionally passing patches 
o£ snow, until at night we came to Crane 

Milton's quiet day seems to have closed regularly 
with a pipe ; he " supped," we are told, " upon . . . 
some light thing ; and after a pipe of tobacco and a 


JVii/i Mr. Evierson. 


Flat, — the name of a settlement composed 
of the single shanty in which we were 
to lodge- The great feature of this day 
was the endless multitude of magnificent 
pines and firs and arbor-vitals, which 
seemed to grow larger as we came on — 
four feet, six feet, and even eight or ten 
feet in diameter, and rising, straight as an 
arrow, for two hundred feet and more. 
The sugar-pines were the largest, with a 
rich light-brown bark, mottled and marked 
Uke alligator skin; their smooth stems had 
no branches for a great height.' Hardly 

t " More and more of the sugar-pine is seen from 
about four thousand feel on to five thousand, at which 
altitude the last-named noble and peculiarly Californian 
tree ig most abundant. The sugar-pine is remarkable 
for the size of its cones, which hang in bunches of two 
or moie from the ends of the long branches, like orna- 
mental tassels. ... Its size [is] gigantic, being not 
unfrequently three hundred feet In height, and from 
seven to ten feet in diameter" (Professor 'Whilney's 

A Western Journey 

smaller were the arbor-vitses. Often the 
trees were covered with a light, green-gold 
moss that seemed to originate sunshine as 
you saw it in the hollows. As he looked at 
the stately evergreens along the gorges and 
hillsides of the forest, Mr, Emerson apos- 
trophized them : " You gejitlemen pines ! " 
We passed a curious rock, shaped like a 
fungus ; and he declared that " it had been 
a mushroom, and then was turned into a 
rock ; perhaps because it smelt so. Some 
benevolent demigod, going by, might cer- 
tainly do that for it!" We stopped for water 
at a little house, and found it occupied by a 
Mr. Dexter, from Bangor, in Maine. A Ute 
Indian man was washing the family clothes 
at a dollar a day. His tribe had once filled 
this region, and there was now a settlement 

"VoseiniieGuide-Bijok,"foiirtheditioii, i874,p. 55). At 
Lake Tahae we found cones of the augar-pine ranging 
from one foot to two feet in length. 

Wii/i Mr. Emerson. 

of a hundred of them near by. Mr, Dexter 
told us that when one of their number dies, 
the others cover their faces with tar, and 
keep it on for two months, or until it wears 
off, — never washing them. They spend 
their money for whiskey and gaudy clothes. 
Arrived at Crane Flat (a " flat " is a 
level place among the hills), we found in- 
deed the half-built shanty, the " hotel," as 
they called it ; but the lord and lady of it 
were away. Two men, however, remained 
in charge. Nothing was ready : no bed- 
steads were up; there were no knives, forks, 
spoons, or towels. Candles there were, and 
bedding, and bales of new blankets never 
opened; some provisions, too; and the cook 
(an old official from a Panama steamer) 
contrived to give us a good dinner, which 
we, somehow, even with few implements, 
were able to eat The seventeen horses 
were hitched to a fallen tree for the night. 


A Western Journey 

By a great roaring fire near by, some of 
the younger men made ready to camp, 
while the rest of us were to sleep on the 
floor within. It was a lovely evening ; the 
moon was full, the air was cool, the great 
bonfire was blazing, and frogs were singing 
in full chorus in a pond in front. The pond, 
indeed, was bordered with snow ; but the 
frogs already smelt the good season that 
was at hand. After dinner Mr. Emerson 
sat, with his shawl about him, sharing with 
W. and me our frugal puff of tobacco ; " I 
find this," said he, "a singular comfort 1" 
One of the ladies soon came up to speak 
with him, and we two withdrew to the 
kitchen and its blazing hearth, and lay 
down on the cook's bunk to finish our 
cigars. In a few minutes Mr. Emerson 
came in. "Ah," said he, as he spied us, 
"these are the only philosophers 1 " and he 
sat down and fell into a talk with the cook. 


With Mr. Emerson, 67 

It rained furiously in the night, and drove 
the campers in. In the morning it was 
misty and cloudy, and we were kept from 
visiting a grove of redwoods near by. 
But it did not rain, and we accomplished 
the rest of the journey into the great valley 
— eighteen miles — in six hours and a half. 
Much of the way was through forests like 
those of the day before. "These trees,*' 
said Mr. Emerson, "have a monstrous 
talent for being tall.'* We saw little snow; 
but then we had departed from the regular 
trail to avoid it. Some who came through 
by that trail the same day wallowed in three 
feet of snow. We descended very gradu- 
ally, until we reached the edge of a chasm, 
and then looked down through the mist in- 
to something that seemed like the White 
Mountain Notch, only the vast depth and 
the grandeur of the great iron-gray cliffs 
were more impressive. 


HIS was the entrance to the Yosem- 
ite Valley.^ Along a steep, winding 

' "The valley is a neirly level area, about six miles 
in length, and from half a mile lo a mile in width, 
sunk almost a mile in perpendicular depth below the 
general level of the adjacent region. It may be roughly 
likened to a gigantic trough hollowed in the mountains, 
nearly at right angles to their regular trend. ... At 
its lower end the valley contracts into a narrow gorge 
or canon, with steeply inclined walla, and not having 
the U shape of the Yosemile, hut the usual V form 
of Californian valleys. The principal features of the 
Vosemite, and those by which it is distinguished from 
all other known valleys, are, — first, the near approach 
lo verticality of its walls ; second, their great height, 
not only absolutely, but as compared with the width 
of the valley itself j and finally, the very small amount 

A Western Journey, 


path we now came suddenly down into 
the gorge, and reached, at the bottom, a 
narrow canon and a clear, swift river ; and 
then wound along among the roclcs, and 
so came up the valley. The space soon 
began to widen into a grassy, bushy 
meadow thinly furnished, here and there, 
with oaks and maples and pines; some- 
times the scanty grass gave place to mere 
sand and gravel. As we came farther up 
we passed the lovely fall of the Bridal 
Vei],^ the Cathedral Rocks, the bold, 
of ialui or dibrh at the base of these gigantic cliffs " 
("Yosemite Guide-Book," fourth edition, pp. 84, 85). 
Aa regards the formation of the valley, Professor 
Whitney puis forward the theory of a sinking of the 
earth's crust at this point {Ibid., p. 119). 

' The names of these great objects are often pretty 
bad. "Some of them," says Professor Whitney . . . 
"slightly incline to sentimentality; for if we recognise 
the appropriateness of the 'Bridal Veil' as a designa- 
tion for the fall called Pohono by the Indians, we fail 
to perceive why the 'Virgin's Tears' should be flowing 


A Western yourney 

huge, towering cliff of EI Capitan,' and 
then crossed the toll-bridge. The river 
was wild, swift, deep, clear as crystal ; 
some seventy or eighty feet wide, as I 
guessed. The heights about us were 
very grand, and we presently caught a 
hint of the vast size of the hills, by ob- 
serving the odd littleness of our com- 
panions and of the whole cavalcade ; it was 

on the opposite side of the valley" ("Yosemite Gnide- 
Book," fourth edition, p. 23). 

1 " El Capital) is an itnmense block of granite, pro- 
jecting squarely out into the valley, and presenting an 
almost vertical sharp edge, three thousand thiee hundred 
feet in elevation. The sides or walls of the mass are 
hare, smooth, and entirely destitute of vegetation. It 
is almost impossible for the observer to comprehend 
the enormous dimensions of this rock, which in clear 
weather can be distinctly seen from the San Joaquin 
plains, St a distance of £fly or sixty miles. ... It is 
doubtful if anywhere in the world there is presented 
so squarely Cut, so lofty, and so imposing a face of 
rock" {"Vosemite Guide-Book," fourth edition, p. 87]. 

With Mr, Emerson. yi 

constantly stealing over us, how small they 

There were at that time three taverns 
in the valley. We stopped at the first that 
we reached, — Leidig's, a neat and good 
one. It was very simple indeed in its ar- 
rangements,^ but it was beautifully placed. 
We had come up the cailon and the valley 
some four or five miles, and were now near 
the foot of the Sentinel Rock, which shot 
up into the air for more than three thou- 
sand feet close behind our house.^ A con- 
siderable brook, and yet but a thread of 

1 I was waked one morning by the cackling of a hen 
that was walking over my bed in search of a nest. 

2 " A slender mass of granite, having something the 
shape of an obelisk. . . . The obelisk form of the Sen- 
tinel continues do\4Ti for a thousand feet or more from 
its summit; below that it is united with the wall of the 
valley. Its entire height above the river at its base 
is 3,043 feet" ("Yosemite Guide-Book," fourth edi- 
tion, p. 90). 


A Western 'journey 

water, as it seemed, was slipping down 
its side. To tlie riglit as we looked out of 
our front door, and due north of us, in 
full sight but a good way off, was the 
great Yosemite Fall, where a river comes 
pouring over the mountain. It drops for 
half a mile ; but the fall is broken once, 
near two thirds of the way down. From 
where we stood, it was the beauty of the 
torrent that first drew attention, as it 
yielded to the wind and was blown aside. 
But its long, deliberate fall, and the distant 
roar of its dashing upon the rocks, made it 
also a grand and impressive object.^ Here 

1 The woid Vosemke is said to mean GrUzly Bear. 
It "was probably," aiya Whitney ("Yosemile Guide- 


fourth edition, p. 15), "t 

e name of 

a chief of 


be ; or perhaps . 

. the ni 

me given to 

the valley 

by th 

band of Indian 

s driven 

out by the 

whites in 


" In the spring, 

when the 

snow firat 

begins to 

melt with rapidity, the 


of water [i 

1 the Yo- 


Fall] ia very g 

eat ; . . 

still later, 

t shrinks 

With Mr, Emerson, 73 

where we stood, at the bottom of the val- 
ley, we were four thousand feet above the 

down to a very much smaller volume. We estimated 
the size of the stream at the summit of the fall, at a 
medium stage of water, to be twenty feet in width and 
two feet in average depth. Mr. J. F. Houghton meas- 
ured the Yosemite Creek below the fall June 17, 
1865, ^^^ found it to be thirty-seven feet wide and 
twenty-five inches deep. ... At the highest stages of 
water there is probably three times as much as this. 
The vertical height of the lip of the fall above the 
valley is, in round numbers, twenty-six hundred feet. 
. . . There is first a vertical descent of fifteen hundred 
feet, when the water strikes on what seems a projecting 
ledge. . . . From here the water finds its way, in a 
series of cascades, down a descent equal to 626 feet 
perpendicular, and then gives one final plunge of about 
four hundred feet on to a low talus of rocks at the base 
of the precipice, . . . The descending mass of water is 
too great to allow of its being entirely broken up into 
spray; but it widens out very much towards the bot- 
tom, — probably to as much as three hundred feet, at 
high water, the space through which it moves being 
fully three times as wide " (" Yosemite Guide-Book," 
fourth edition, pp. 90-92). 

74 A Western youmey 

sea. The mountain walls along the six 
or eight miles of this noble gorge did not 
sink below a height of two thousand feet 
above the valley, and rose sometimes in 
peaks of three, four, and five thousand feet. 
From side to side, between the walls of 
rock, the distance might average a mile ; 
it seemed much less. The stars were mag- 
nificent in the narrowed canopy overhead; 
beautiful was it in the evenings to see the 
planets touch the edge of the mountain 
opposite, and then slip, like melting silver, 
from our sight. 

The day after our arrival we went on 
horseback, for about four miles up the 
valley, to the Mirror Lake and its great 
reflected mountain, the Half-Dome. We 
observed the odd work of the woodpeckers, 
where they had riddled the bark of the 
tall pine-trees with holes, as many and 
as regular as those in a lady's thimble. 

With Mr, Emerson, 75 

and had stuffed an acorn in each hole.^ As 
we rode along, Mr. Emerson talked with 
one of the young ladies, and recited Scott 
to her, and she to him. We were not quite 
early enough at the lake; a breeze had 
sprung up and ruffled it, so that we lost 
its wonderful reflections. But there was 
enough to keep us sitting long, to admire 
the pretty lake and to watch the noble 
mountain, lifting itself like an exhalation 

1 Mr. Emerson was very sceptical as to the story of 
the woodpeckers' putting in these acorns; he thought 
it more likely to be the work of squirrels. But I am 
told by a very learned friend that the woodpecker is 
the only creature that stores acorns in this way ; and 
another very competent authority assures me that he 
has often seen the woodpeckers flying straight as an 
arrow at these holes, and thrusting the acorns in, and 
then driving them home with repeated tappings of their 
bill. The acorns are said to fatten a grub, for which 
the woodpeckers in due time return. Robins sang 
beautifully in the valley ; but I do not recall the singing 
of any other bird there. 


A Western Joimiey 

for nearly a mile into the sky. " This val- 
ley," said Mr. Emerson, as we sat there, 
" is the only place that comes up to the 
brag about it, and exceeds it." ^ 

' Of the Half-Dome 
crest of granite rising t< 
the valley. . ._. The 
points about the Yos 

Professor Whitney says ; " A 
the height of 4,737 feet above 
nly one of all the prominent 
lite which never has been, and 

perhaps never will be, trodden by human foot. . . . The 
whole appearance of the mass is that of an originally 
dome-shaped elevation, with an exceedingly sleep 
curve, uf which the western half has been split off and 
become engulfed. This geological theory of its forma- 
tion appears to have forced itself upon those who gave 
it the name 'Half-Dome,' which is one that seems to 
suggest itself at the first sight of this truly marvellous 
crest of rock. ... It has not the massiveness of El 
Capilan, but is more astonishing. ... It is entirely 
unique in the Sierra Nevada, and, lio far as we 
know, in the world. The only possible rival would be 
the Matterhorn. . . . But the forms of the two are so 
different that they will hardly bear comparison " (" Yo- 
semite Guide-Book," fourth edition, pp. 95-97)- The 

Indian name of this 

s Tesaiyak. 

IVM Mr. Emerson. 


The next day several of us rode with 
Mr. Emerson up the valley and into the 
caflon of the Merced, some eight miles, to 
see the Vernal and the Nevada falls.^ 

In the freshness of the morning we 
crossed a wide grassy meadow, and ad- 
mired the magnificent array of mountains 
that made the valley walls about us, — -the 
"Royal Arches," whose great curves de- 

1 The Indian name for the Vernal Fall is Peiwayak, 
— "White Water." " The Merced," says Whitney, "in 
coming down from the level of the plateau above . . . 
descends, in two miles, over two thousand feet, making, 
besides innumerable cascades, two grand falls, which are 
among the greater attractions of the Yosemite. ■ . . 
The first fall in ascending the cafion is the Vernal, a per- 
pendicular sheet of water . . . probably at the average 
state of water, in June or July, four hundred feet. . . . 
The Nevada Fall is in every respect one of the grandest 
water-falls in the world. ... To call the Vernal four 
hundred and the Nevada six hundred feet in round 
numbers will be near enough to the truth " (" Yosemite 
Guide-Book," fourth edition, pp. gg, looj. 


A Western Journey 

lighted Mr. Emerson ; the helmet-like North 
Dome above them ; and, opposite, resting 
against the sky, the great Half Dome, 
cleft straight down, as with an axe, like 
the eastern front of Gibraltar. We were 
fascinated in watching the little foaming 
streams that slid and fell along their sides ; 
sometimes they were dropping over a shelf 
of rock and dispersing in vapor, like a puff 
of frosty breath, before they found the 
earth ; or a broader sheet of water, like a 
great ribbon, would come falling down, and 
be blown off and scattered, — yet with a 
pretty wavering this way and that, while 
some of the delicate threads slowly held 
their way and descended upon the rock 

At the Vernal Fall the river is some two 
rods wide, and pours over the rock in a noble 
mass. As we stood and looked silently at 
this thick, milk-white, exquisite fleece of 

lVi//t Mr. Emerson. 


descending foam, some one repeated from 
I the "Wreck of the Hesperus," — 

" she struck where the white and fleecy waves 
Looked soft as carded wool." 

' The phrase was singularly good for the 
object upon which our eyes were resting. 
Mr. Emerson gave a pleased nod, and de- 
sired it said over again ; and then he 
wished a reference to it when we should 
get to the hotel. Had he then let Long- 
fellow's poetry pass by him so much ? He 
spoke of Longfellow repeatedly, and with 
friendly regard ; but one could see that he 
was not particularly drawn to his verse. 

It was a sharp climb on foot from the 
lower fall to the Nevada. We found here a 
little unpainted shanty {" La Casa Nevada"), 
kept by a Mr. Snow and his wife, from 
Vermont. The fall justified all our ex- 
pectations. It presented the same appear- 

, ance as the other, — that of a mass of foam ; 

8o A Western Jourfiey 

but it was higher, and had some curious 
and beautiful characteristics. Half way 
down it meets with some obstruction, and 
a part of it shoots violently up again in a 
fountain, and forward in jets of foam. To 
see these darting rockets spring and shoot 
forward, and then curve and fall so swiftly, 
and yet seeming, in all the tumult, to melt 
into the air as they fall, recalled William 
Hunt's furious horses and their guide, in 
his picture of "The Queen of Night," 
where the wild flight is moderated into 
such an easy and secure grace. 

We dined at the neat and wholesome 
little shed with the great title, and then 
sunned ourselves on the platform in perfect 
happiness and talked. The Italians were 
mentioned, and some one praised their char- 
acter and their mixture of ardor with eleva- 
tion of sentiment. Mr. Emerson doubted. 
Dante was cited. "Yes, oh yes, Dante ! " 

WM Mr. Emerson, 8i 

he answered, — as if he was exceptional, 
and not to be counted. Then some one 
named Michael Angelo, and Vittoria Co- 
lonna, and Tasso; and the modern Ruf- 
fini and his " Dr. Antonio." " Yes," Mr. 
Emerson seemed to allow it ; but he liked 
better what he found among the English 
Puritans, and in- Mrs. Hutchinson's me- 
moirs of the life of her husband. Then he 
recurred to the Italians, and talked of 
Manzoni, of Madame Arconati (Margaret 
Fuller's friend),^ and of Macchiavelli. 
" Macchiavelli," he said, in his slow, paus- 
ing way, " wrote — like — the Devil ; utter- 
ing his devilish sentiments with so much 
sweetness and coolness, — as if they were 
all summer air ! " 

Soon it was time to go home. We were 

1 It is stated in Colonel Higginson's interesting Life 
of Margaret Fuller that Madame Arconati was by birth 
a Pole. 



A Western journey 

now fifteen hundred feet above the valley. 
Some of the young men insisted on cHmb- 
ing the Liberty Cap, — a peak that rose 
three thousand feet above our present place. 
Mr. Emerson begged them not to do it, but 
they would. "Why," said he, "will those 
madcap boys do that ? What is the use 
of teasing the mind ? It is only capable 
of a certain number of impressions." It 
was Sunday ; and as we rode along home 
he said, with quiet happiness: "This we 
must call the Lord's day : we seldom read 
such leaves in the Bible." 

On Monday, May S, we went again in the 
morning to Mirror Lake ; and now really 
saw the reflections. The sun was not yet 
risen over the Half-Dome, With our backs 
to the east, we looked down into the water, 
in depths that were not its own, and watched 
the top of the great mountain and the 
increasing light behind it, and then the 

With Mr. Emerson. 


effulgence of the risen sun. The ride had 
been delightful. " One thinks here," said 
Mr. Emerson, as we came along, "of the 
Arab proverb; 'Allah does not count the 
days spent in the chase.'" He praised 
some one's rule : "Take notes on the spot; 
a note is worth a cartload of recollections." 
I observed that he himself occasionally prac- 
tised this. He spoke too of Goethe's in- 
scription for a tomb: "Think on living ;" 
and of one of Goethe's maxims, — "the 
maxim," he said, as if not intending just 
then to indorse it, "of a literary man: 
'Spend not a moment's time with people to 
whom you do not belong, and who do not 
belong to you.'" Something was said of 
the Venetian artists ; and Mr. Emerson 
quoted Eeckford, — " that fop Beckford," — 
where he says of Paul Veronese's " Marriage 
at Cana in Galilee:" "I never beheld so 
gorgeous a group of wedding-garments 

A Western Journey 

before . . . The guests appear a very gen- 
teel, decent sort of people, well used to the 
mode of their time, and accustomed to 
miracles." ^ 

On the way home we rode to the foot of 
the great Yosemite Fall, and watched the 
water drop from its monstrous height. It 
seemed to be a river some thirty or forty 
feet wide. We went on, and stopped for a 
moment at Hutchings's Hotel ; Hatchings 
recognized Mr. Emerson, and asked him in, 
and entertained him with the native wine, 
and with accounts of the Digger Indians. 
They grind acorns, and make it into a mush 
or porridge for food, first prudently filtering 
it with water to get the tannin out.^ This 

' "Italy; with Sketches of Spaia and Portugal" 
(London, 1S34), i. 106. 

^ " The valley has been annually visited by the Monos, 
at the lime of the ripening of the acorns, for the pur- 
pose of laying in a stock of this staple article of food." 
The Indian name of Cathedral Ruck means a large 

With Mr. Emerson. 85 

they season with dried grubs and the chrysa- 
lis of flies collected from the froth on certain 
ponds. Chance now and then throws some 
other delicacy in their way. One night while 
we were in the valley, a mlile was drowned 
in trying to cross the too swift river (the 
owner was saving his toil at the bridge) ;^ 
and on the next day we saw five Indians 
carrying off upon their backs the carved 
pieces of the poor creature for their food. 

We came home ; and after dinner sat on 
the shady side of the house, and talked 
at large. Mr. Emerson praised Fulke 
Greville, Sidney's friend. He spoke of 

"cache," or stack, of acorns, "which the Indians are 
accustomed lo build in the trees, in order to secure 
their stock of food from the depredations of wild 
animitU" ("yosemite Guide-Eook," fourth edition, 
pp. 18. ai). 

' It was worth saving \ we had been charged seventy- 
five cents apiece as we rode over the bridge on entering 
the valley. 


A Western Journey 

Boccaccio and the Decameron : " What 
made the coarseness of the book endurable, 
aside from the purity and grace of it as 
language, was its being steeped in Itahan 
life and manners." I made bold to ask 
him what he had in mind in naming his 
recent course of lectures at Cambridge, 
"The Natural History of the Intellect." 
This opened a very interesting conversa- 
tion ; but, alas! I could recall but little o£ 
it, — little more than the mere hintings of 
what he said. " He cared very little for 

metaphysics ; to him , [he named a 

well-known metaphysician] was a mere 
block. But he thought that as a man 
grows he observes certain facts about hia 
own mind, — about memory, for example. 
These he had set down from time to time. 
As for making any methodical history, he 
did not undertake it." Then, unhappily, he « 
was called off ; but he soon came back, and'J 

With Mr, Emerson, 87 

recurred to the matter. " Had I heard hisy 
lecture at San Francisco on ' Resources * ? 
At the end of that he had crowded some 
things which he had said at. Cambridge inj 
a lecture on * Inspiration.' " And then, going 
on with the explanation, he spoke of the 
difference in one's moods : ** On one day 
a man is an angel in his ambition and 
his power ; on the next he is a fool. One 
goes to bed at night not worth a sixpence, 
and rises a new man. Now it is the aim of 
prudent living to find the sources of this 
inspiration, — the honest sources of it ; for 
one man seeks it in hashish, and so on. 
Well, sleep is one of these sources." And 
there was more ; but I could not clearly 
bring it back. He said of Coleridge's " Bi- 
ographia Literaria," that he did not see 
how a young scholar could do without it ; 
and praised his definitions of Genius, 
Reason, Imagination, and Fancy, quoting. 


A Western Journey 

as he went on, Wordsworth's ".Light that 
never was on sea or land," and his famous 
lines, used more than once : ^ — 
" The intellectual power, through weirds and things, 

Went sounding on a dim and perilous way." 
Coleridge's Aids to Reflection "he did 
not so much value." He told also the story 
which I remembered hearing in his lecture 
on "Memory," about his going once to 
Charleston by water, and recalling, as he 
lay on his back, — " for I had a clear head," 
he significantly added, — every line but 
two pr three, of the " Lycidas," " always a 
favorite poem ; " and yet he had not known 
that he knew it. " What a range," he added, 
"memory gives to a man, — so small a 
creature I " 

That evening (Monday) there came an 
admiring, enthusiastic letter for Mr. Emer- 

l "The Escursion," book iii., and "The Borderers," 

Wz//i Mr. Emerso/t. 

son from M„ a young man living in the 
valley, and tending a saw-miil there. He 
was a Scotchman by hirth, who had come 
to this country at the age of eleven, and 
was a graduate at Madison University, in 
Wisconsin. Some friends near San Fran- 
cisco had written him that Mr. Emerson 
was coming, and they had also told Mr. 
Emerson about him. He had read Mr. 
Emerson's books, but had never seen him, 
and wrote now with enthusiasm, wishing 
for an opportunity to come to him. The 
next morning Mr. Emerson asked my com- 
pany on horseback for a visit to M. So he 
mounted his pied mustang, and we rode 
over, and found M. at the saw-mill alone. 
He was an interesting young fellow, of 
real intelligence and character, a botanist 
mainly, who, after studying a year or two 
at Madison, had "zigzagged his way." he 
said, " to the Gulf of Me.^;ico, and at last 


A Western JonrHey 

had found this valley, and had got enta 
here, — in love with the mountains and 
flowers ; and he did n't know when he 
should get away." He had built the saw- 
mill for Hutchings, and was now working 
it. He had heretofore tended sheep at 
times, — even flocks of twenty-five hundred. 
Occasionally he rambled among the moun- 
tains, and camped out for months ; and he 
urged Mr. Emerson, with an amusing zeal, 
to stay and go off with him on such a trip. 
He lodged in the saw-mill, and we climbed 
a ladder to his room. Here he brought 
out a great many dried specimens of plants 
which he had collected, and hundreds of 
his own graceful pencil- sketches of the 
mountain peaks and forest trees, and gave 
us the botanical names, and talked of them 
with enthusiastic interest. All these treas- 
ures he poured out before Mr. Emerson, 
and begged him to accept them. But Mr. 

Emerson declined ; wishing leave, however, 
to bring his friends to see them. Other 
calls were interchanged that day and the 
next ; and when we left, two days later, to 
see the great trees of the Mariposa grove, 
M. joined our horseback party, 

Our last day in the valley brought to the 
party various occupations. We were to 
depart from the regular trail on the next 
day, turned aside by the snow and fallen 
trees ; and so we should miss that noble 
cliff, high up among the mountains, so 
meanly denominated "Inspiration Point." 
Some of us, therefore, took this time to go 
there ; Mr, Emerson was otherwise occu- 
pied. The last traveller that had been that 
way was probably the well-known English- 
woman, Mrs. Yelverton, who had gone on, 
late in the fall of 1870, and was lost in a 
snow-storm, and with difficulty rescued by 
Leidig, our landlord. We passed down 


A Western Journey 

the south side o£ the river, close under the 
immense Cathedral Rocks and their two 
spires, and then under the lovely waterfall 
of the Bridal Veil, which the Indians prettily 
called Pdhono.' In some respects this is the 
most beautiful object in all the valley. It 
drops, looking truly like a white veil, off a 
shelf of rock some nine hundred feet above 
you, and conies down touching nothing for 
over six hundred feet. It is really a large 
body of water, and it plunges with a great 
crash into the basin of rock below, and 
flows swiftly off in three or four consider- 
able streams, which at this time of the 
year were deep brooks as we forded them ; 
and yet, up in the air as it falls, the stream 
seems all white foam, and yields gracefully 
to the wind. A broad belt of rainbow lay 

' An onomatopy for a puff or blast of wind, — a 
recognition of that which slrilies the eye at once : the 
blowing of the water by the wind. 

With Mr. Emerson, 93 

right across it, seeming to pass into the 
substance of the fall, and wavering in the 
exquisite silver tissue of delicate vapor 
along its sides. Close beside us, as we 
passed on, ran the Merced, deep and swift, 
foaming often among the rocks, and yet 
showing its depth by the rich sea-green of 
its color. 

The view from Inspiration Point brought 
back the image of Bunyan's Delectable 
Mountains. We looked up through the 
length of the valley, set like a jewel among 
these magnificent heights. A little grassy 
plain it seemed, excessively narrow, with 
a slender stream winding through it, and 
little trees dotted about. And yet we knew 
what trees these were, and recalled that we 
• had paced one of them, — a pine that had 
fallen near the hotel, — and found it nearly 
two hundred and twenty feet long. We 
were up above the valley walls now, and 

94 ^ Western yourney, 

looked along their tops, and saw the high 
country behind them, with its still ascend- 
ing mountain peaks, and the swiftly falling 
valleys along which the waters ran that 
poured over into the gorge below. 

ON the next morning, May II, we left 
the great valley before seven o'clock. 
■ At breakfast we had, among other things, 
pie. This article at breakfast was one o£ 
Mr. Emerson's weaknesses. A pie stood 
before him now. He offered to help some- 
body from it, who declined ; and then one 
or two others, who also declined ; and 

then Mr. ; he too declined. "But 

Mr. 1 " Mr. Emerson remonstrated, 

with humorous emphasis, thrusting the 
knife under a piece of the pie, and putting 
the entire weight of his character into 

his manner, — " but Mr. , what is pie 



A Western journey 

It was a beautiful, but hard ritle of 
twenty-five or thirty miles to Galen Clarke's 
tavern, where we were to stop for the night, 
before making a ditoiir on the next morn- 
ing to see the great trees at Mariposa. 
We passed along through the silent pine- 
forests, up and down hills and across 
streams, talking, and occasionally shifting 
companions all the way. We lunched and 
had our nooning in the woods ; some lay 
on the brown pine-leaves and slept ; other 
some, sitting about or supine, listened in 
comfort while Mr. Emerson and one or 
two others were making out and repeating 
to each other something from Scott. 

"How can Mr. Emerson," said one of 
the younger members of the party to me 
that day, " be so agreeable, all the lime, 
without getting tired ! " It was the naive 
expression of what we all had felt. There 
was never a more agreeable travelling- 

Wit/t Mr. Emerson. 

companion ; he was ■ always accessible, 
cheerful, sympathetic, considerate, tolerant ; 
and there was always that same respectful 
interest in those with whom he talked, even 
the humblest, which raised them in their 
own estimation. One thing particularly 
impressed me, — the sense that he seemed 
to have of a certain great amplitude of 
time and leisure. It was the behavior of 
one who really believed in an immortal 
life, and had adjusted his conduct accord- 
ingly ; so that, beautiful and grand as the 
natural objects were, among which our 
journey lay, they were matched by the 
sweet elevation of character and the spir- 
itual charm of our gracious friend. Years 
afterwards, on that memorable day of his 
funeral at Concord, I found that a sentence 
from his own essay on Immortality haunted 
my raind and kept repeating itself all the 
day long ; it seemed to point to the sources 

A Weslern journey 

of his power; "Meantime the true disci- 
ples saw through the letter the doctrine of 
eternity, which dissolved the poor corpse 
and Nature also, and gave grandeur to the 
passing hour." 

It was pleasant, as we rode along, to 
hear him sound M. on his literary points. 
M- was not strong there; he preferred, for 
instance, Alice Gary to Byron. Upon 
these matters Mr. Emerson talked to him, 
on this day and the next, a good deal. He 
spoke of Bryant : " Bryant has a cold, 
clear eye, and writes in a manner very 
different from our other rhymers ; he has 
a right to talk of trees and Nature." 
Byron he Uked, and praised him warmly. 
" He valued his facility. His taste is 
good ; now and then a word costs him 
more than it ought to, but it is seldom." 
M. stuck at this praise of Byron, and 
named a certain passage, objecting to some 

With Mr, Emerson, 99 

word in it. "Yes/* said Mr. Emerson, "I 
had not thought of that particular word. I 
read it for the first time, younger, perhaps, 
than you did. But he does n't delay you 
on that. There is a certain scenic and 
general luck about him." " Washington 
Allston he had never met, but he had seen 
him in the street, and again once in a car- 
riage when the elder Richard Dana drove 
with Allston to his room at Cambridge, 
to see him about Mr. Dana's son, who was 
his pupil. At Coleridge's, in England, he 
had seen one of his pictures. Some one 
mentioned AUston's " Elijah " and its pow- 
erful expression of solitude and desert.^ 
** Yes, he remembered that picture, and 

1 ". . . Allston's picture of Elijah in the Wilder- 
ness," says Mr. Lowell, irreverently, in his essay on 
Milton, " where a good deal of research at last enables 
us to guess at the prophet, absconded like a conundrum 
in the landscape, where the very ravens could scarce 
have found him out, except by divine commission." 

A WeslcTK Journey 

liked it. The late Lord Derby and a friend 
of his, being in Boston years ago, had 
bought that and another picture of Alls- 
ton ; and lately they had been bought 
back." He was asked about Coleridge, 
but did not say much : " He looked like 
bis portraits. He himself had called on 
him once ; Coleridge seemed to have two 
or three things on his mind, — ' He is from 
Boston ? well, Channing is from Boston, and 
Allston ;' and he talked accordingly," 

Clarke's was a plain country tavern on 
a fork of the Merced River, at about the 
same level as the Yosemite Valley, It was 
full, but we were somehow crowded in. 
In the morning we were off at eight o'clock 
for the Mariposa grove. Galen Clarke, 
our landlord, a solid, sensible man from 
New Hampshire, was the State guardian of 
the great trees, and now accompanied us, 
honoris causd. It was a sunny and pleasant 

•Z -J 'J ^ -J ^ 

•' ^ ^ <* ^ 

- J 

J -^ ^ ^ w w 

W7/A Mr: Efn€r§dh. loi 

4 • o - 

ride. M. talked of the trees ; atfji jjlrje': - 
grew learned, and were able to tell a sugar^-"' 
pine from a yellow pine, and to name the 
silver fir, and the " libocedrus," which is 
almost our arbor-vitae and second cousin 
to the great sequoia.^ By and by M. 

1 The " Big Tree " is popularly called in England the 
Wellingtonia, This is a mistake, and the error should 
be abandoned. The tree, having been first discovered 
at Calaveras in 1852, was mentioned in Californian news- 
papers, and then in the London " Athenaeum " in July, 
1853. ^r. Lindley published the first scientific descrip- 
tion of it in an English journal in December, 1853 ; and 
supposing it to be a new genus, named it the Welling- 
tonia. The English botanist had the right to name it if 
it really was a new genus, for he had accidentally been 
able to publish the first account of it. Specimens sent 
to Dr. Torrey in New York, earlier than those sent to 
Dr. Lindley, had been lost on the way. But the genus 
was not a new one j the Californian red-wood was of the 
same genus, and that had been named and described by 
Endlicher, in Vienna, in 1847, as the Sequoia^ — Sequoia 
sempervirens. This identity of genus was declared by 
Decaisne, in France, in June, 1854 (Endlicher died in 

.»4 -f^sief^ journey 

.-fiailed. out that he saw the sequoias. The 
"-/■general level was now about fifty-five hun- 
dred feet above the sea ; the trees stood a 
little lower, in a hollow of the mountain. 
They were "big trees," to be sure; and 
yet at first they seemed not so very big. 
We grew curious, and looked about among 
them for a while ; and sooii began to dis- 
cover what company we were in. 

As we rode by a fallen trunk I hap- 
pened suddenly to observe that the great 
log was higher than ray head as I sat 

1849), and the " Big Tree " was then named the Sequoia 
gigantea. This is now recogniied among scientific men, 
the world over, as its correct designation. The name 
is that of a Cherokee Indian, Sequoia, who invented 
the Cherokee alphabet, " constructed with wonderful 
ingenuity," aays Professor Whitney, and still in use. 
We must be grateful to the distinguished German bota- 
nist for a name so happily chosen. — I am indebted for 
these facts partly to Professor Whitney's excellent 
book, and partly to the kindness of my friend Professor 

With Mr. Emerson. 103 

on horseback. We climbed up on the 
trunk of another which had fallen, and it 
was nineteen feet in diameter. It was 
broken and wasted towards the top ; but I 
paced off two hundred and forty-nine feet 
along the stem, and found it still four feet 
in diameter. The trees were not gathered 
in any single group, but stood out here and 
there among the pines and firs and arbor- 
vitaes ; these were great creatures them- 
selves, of six, eight, and even ten feet in 
diameter ; but they were dwarfed by their 
huge neighbors. It was not so much the 
height of the sequoias that surprised us, 
for these others ran up to more than two 
hundred feet in height, while the sequoias 
went hardly more than fifty feet higher. 
At the Calaveras grove, indeed, there 
was one sequoia of three hundred and 
twenty-five feet ; but here the astonish- 
ing thing was the size of the stems and 

I04 A Western Journey 

the branches. Relatively to the other trees, 
the trunk is much wider at the base, and 
tapers faster. The sequoias look enor- 
mously strong, are perfectly straight, and 
rise for a long distance smooth and un- 
branched. The Grizzly Giant (they name 
them, and put tin signs on them) branches 
first where it is near a hundred feet from 
the ground ; and one of its lower boughs 
measures, so Mr. Clarke assured us, six feet 
and seven inches in diameter. This is the 
largest tree in the grove ; it is of an irregu- 
lar shape, and we found its diameter to be 
about twenty-nine feet one way, and thirty- 
one feet another.^ 

1 " The largest tree in the Lower Grove is the one 
known as the * Grizzly Giant,' which is ninety-three 
feet seven inches in circumference at the ground, and 
sixty-four feet three inches at eleven feet above. Its 
two diameters at the base, as near as we could measure, 
were thirty and thirty-one feet. . . . Some of the 
branches of this tree are fully six feet in diameter, or 

Wit A Mr, Emerson. 105 

The bark easily catches fire, and most 
if not all of the old trees have suffered 
from devastation in this way. There was 
a fallen tree which had been burned in two 
and hollowed out by the fire. Through 
this hollow tube we rode without incon- 
venience, stooping only a little ; if the fire 
had hollowed it a little more, we could have 
ridden with head high up, and room to 
spare. Then we rode through an ample 
hole, like a barn-door, in the trunk of 
an upright, living tree. At the Grizzly 
Giant we gathered in about the tree as 
close as we could, for the bulging at the 
root, to measure the circumference ; and 
we found that our thirteen horses were not 
enough ; it would need about six more to 

as large as the trunks of the largest elms of the Con- 
necticut Valley, of which Dr. Holmes has so pleasantly 
discoursed in the ' Atlantic Monthly ' ** (" Yosemite 
Guide-look," fourth edition, p. 182). 


lo6 A Western Journey 

compass it, We got, however, our strongest 
impression of the size of the trees from a 
fragment of a fallen trunk that had been 
long burning and wasting away. Clarke 
said that it was the largest of all before 
the fire got into it the last time ; it began 
to burn in August, and kept on until the 
snow came. Now it was only a flattened 
piece of a trunk; but enough of the great 
curve remained to indicate what it had 
been. Clarke measured the Forest Giant 
while we were there. It had lost its bark 
by fire ; but the diameter, two feet above 
the ground, was twenty-nine feet and six 
inches. The bark, he said, would have 
made the diameter about four feet more. 
This, it will be observed, was making the 
thickness of the bark two feet. 

We passed along from one collection of 
the trees to another. Sometimes there 
were fifty of them near together ; and then. 

With Mr, Emerson, 107 

again, they were scattered. There were 
some young ones ; " That is good ! *' one 
said to himself; " they are not, then, a mere 
decaying thing of the past." These young 
ones were thrifty and perfectly propor- 
tioned: nothing could be more symmetrical, 
— so firmly planted, as they were, so straight, 
with so clean a stem and so shapely a foli- 
age. The top in the perfect tree, as M. 
pointed out to us, is just a parabola, and 
not at all the peaked shape of the pine ; it 
is akin to the cedar and the juniper. Now 
and then, in the old trees, the top slopes off 
ungracefully and sharp, as if it had got up 
too far out of the hollow, and did not like 
the air ; this was the result of fire, M. 
thought, or something else that had de- 
stroyed the original top. Its Indian name, 
so we were told, is Wahwonah. 

We sat down to lunch near a hut, and 
had a chance to rest and to look about us 

A Western founiey 

more quietly. M. protested against our 
going away so soon : " It is," said he, "as if 
a photographer should remove his plate be- 
fore the impression was fully made;" he 
begged us to stay there and camp with him 
for the night. After lunch Mr. Emerson, 
at Clarke's request, chose and named a 
tree. This had been done by one distin- 
guished person and another, and a sign 
put up to commemorate it. Mr, Emerson's 
tree was not far from the hut ; it was a 
vigorous and handsome one, although not 
remarkably large, measuring fifty feet in 
circumference at two and a half feet from 
the ground. He named it Samoset, after 
our Plymouth sachem ; having at first 
doubted a little over Logan. He had 
greatly enjoyed the day. "The greatest 
wonder," said he, "is that we can see these 
trees and not wonder more." 
We were off at about three o'clock, and 

Witk Mr. Emerson, 109 

left M. standing in the forest alone ; he was 
to pass the night there in solitude, and to 
find his way back to the valley on foot. 
We had all become greatly interested in 
him; and hated to leave him. His name has 
since grown to be well known at the East, 
through his valuable articles in the maga- 

WE reached Clarke's in an hour, and 
at about five o'clock took again the 
stages which we had left, eight days before, 
at Hazel Green, on the other side of the 
valley ; and in two hours we were at " White 
and Hatch's." This was a comfortable 
tavern ; and a great fire of wood added to 
the cheer of a good dinner. It was cool on 
the veranda ; and the landlord was induced 
to explore his house for an unoccupied 
room where a cigar might be allowed. We 
were led to an obscure, low, rather large 
room, with a couple of beds, and the nearly 
burned-out remains of a wood-fire upon a 

A Western youmey, iii 

large hearth. A single candle was lighted, 
and I sat down with Mr. Emerson, on the 
opposite side of the fireplace. It was dim 
and cosy, and we were very comfortable. 
" Is this not,*' said Mr. Emerson, slowly, 
and looking cautiously about, " the conjugal 
bedroom ? " It seemed not unlikely. He 
talked long about various persons, and told 
a little tale of two of his early friends. 
It was like a poem, to hear him and to see 
him as he told the story in his musing, 
pausing way, in the dim light, — rather 
perhaps from what his face and his tones 
suggested, than from his words. 

By and by H. came in and unguardedly 
announced that we were to be crowded for 
the night ; that he was put into a room with 
only one small window, where there were 
five occupied beds ; and that I was to share 
a little two-bedded room with Mr. Emerson. 
H. and I at once agreed that we would 

A Western Journey 

have our beds on the platform, and sleep al 
fresco; but Mr. Emerson vehemently pro- 
tested : " He would not allow it ; why no, 
of course not ; why should you not sleep in 
the room with me?" I insisted that I 
wished to sleep on the platform ; and in 
truth I did greatly prefer it, for the fresh air. 
He would not believe it, and declared that 
he should go at once to the landlord and 
to the head of our party, and object. " Now 
Mr. H.," he said, "if you choose to do that, 
it 's all very well ; but our friend here has a 
wife and children, — he iinistii't do it," We 
held on, and finally only carried our point 
by showing him that we could go into the 
parlor if we wished. And so we younger 
men had our night — a perfectly comfort- 
able one — on the platform, under a tree 
that grew up through it. 

In the morning Mr. Emerson eyed me 
gravely, and asked, with a sceptical look. 

With Mr. Emerson. 113 

about the night ; and protested to our leader 
that the party "was dandling him all the 
way, and he should soon be only ready for a 
pap-spoon ! " Before seven o'clock we were 
off again. I was no longer in the wagon 
with Mr. Emerson ; two of the young people 
had gone forward to San Francisco, and it 
was best that I should take a seat in their 
coach. We passed down through a country 
like that which we had traversed in coming 
up; but we missed now the great moun- 
tains and their snowy tops, that before had 
drawn all our eyes and piqued our curiosity^ 
as we drew near them. Now, instead of 
these, we perceived in the distance the vast 
sea-like stretch of the San Joaquin Valley, 
and far beyond, dimly, the Coast Range 
Mountains. Beyond Hornitos, we came 
down into the level of the plains. We had 
seen at the town of Mariposa, twelve miles 

out, the disused quartz-crushing establish- 




A Western Journey 

meats in the tract which Fremont had 
owned, and great white dust-heaps of 
crushed rock. A good deal of placer-min- 
ing had been going on in those parts. It 
was interesting, but not pretty, at such 
places to see the rocks, the only insoluble 
things, lying about; while the surface-earth 
and the gold-bearing gravel had all been 
washed away in the sluices and had passed 
off, like Wycliffe's ashes, into the rivers. 
At Homitos we dined, and rested for two 
hours ; and then went on through the plains, 
crossing the Merced and the Tuolumne, 
and arriving after sunset at Roberts's again, 
having made fifty-seven miles that day. 

We dined, as I said, at Homitos, — a 
poor enough village. It was hot there, 
as befitted the name. After dinner came 
a delightful talk with Mr. Emerson. He 
spoke of Mirabeau, and something was 
said of Dumont's " Recollections." " Yes," 

With Mr, Emerson. 115 

he said, " that is a good book ; " and he 
quoted Dumont's story about writing Mira- 
beau's speeches for him. " Mirabeau," said 
Mr. Emerson, "like Goethe, was a man 
who magnetized other people, and then 
considered that he had a right to all that 
they said." ^ The mention of Dumont sug- 
gested Romilly. He referred to Romilly's 
disgust at popular speaking ; and went on 
to say something of the manner of speak- 
ing in the English parliament " They 
will not endure eloquence there ; what tells 
there is firsts facts ; and second^ jesting." 

1 Mr. Emerson tells Dumont*s story in the early part 
of the essay on Napoleon in "Representative Men." 
See also Dumont's " Recollections of Mirabeau," pp. 
63-68, 87-90. "My work," said Goethe, once, after 
speaking of Mirabeau, "is that of an aggregation of 
beings taken from the whole of Nature, — it bears the 
name of Goethe. Such was Mirabeau : he had the 
genius ... of observation ; the genius of appropriation " 
(Mrs. Austin's "Characteristics of Goethe," p. 77). 


A Western Joum^ 

He advised me to read the Life of Buxton. 
Buxton valued greatly tbis precise knowl- 
edge of facts : " Be sure of your facts," he 
said. Mr. Emerson wondered that the Eng- 
lish liked so much Motley's histories, — "the 
style was so florid." Something was said 
of A. I asked who he was. " Why, he was 
that thrice- baptized, thrice -formulated min- 
ister at C, of whom B. [another clergyman] 
said, that ' he was, to be sure, a sort of a 
fool ; and in the language of a soul still 
unreconciled to God, he was a damnedj 
fool.' " 

We went on, and were drawn across the! 
Merced in a ferry-boat hitched to a cablel 
stretching from shore to shore, along which I 
we were slid by the force of two Chiname 
upon the boat laboriously turning at 
crank. We looked our last at the rivef^ 
which had delighted us in the great va]>fl 
ley, — alas! muddy now, and no longerj 

With Mr. Emerson, 117 

vapor, and foam, and liquid crystal. Later 
we crossed the Tuolumne, and drew up 
again at Roberts's. And again we sat on 
the platform in the evening, and "enjoyed 
the passing hour." Mr. Emerson talked 
to me of a certain writer : " The trouble 
with him is that you can't get him to make 
necessary changes and corrections." " I,'' 
said he, "and one or two others regard 
him as a poet ; but we are the only ones 
that do." 

Roberts's, considered as a tavern, was a 
place to leave. We went away early the 
next morning, and reached Stockton, on the 
railroad, by two o'clock in the afternoon ; 
it was forty-five miles, mainly over the im- 
mense prairie of the San Joaquin Valley, 
where the stunted herbage and grain were 
burning up in the drought and sun ; and 
they were to have no rain again until Octo- 
ber. Here and there was some timber, as 


A Western Journey 

at the crossing of the Stanislaus River. 
The little squirrels were still scampering 
like fury over the plain, and the small 
shad-belly owls stood about as before ; and 
now and then a jackass-rabbit amused us 
again. We saw, too, a little gray hare, 
which they call a cotton-tail, from his white 
appendage : the other one has it dark, and 
his "jackass" ears, also, are tipped with 
black. We saw occasionally the mirage. 
It was incredible, as you looked at the trees 
and houses and hummocks of earth, and 
saw them surrounded with a smooth gray 
sheet of something that showed the reflec- 
tion of these objects so plainly — it was in- 
credible to be told that you were not really 
looking at water. To see, too, against the 
sky the figure of a man on horseback, on 
a treeless mound, in the wide plain ahead, 
was a wonder; he loomed like a giant. 
How would it be possible for a savage 

With Mr. Emerson. 119 

looking at these things not to believe in 
magicians and devils and giants! 

At a stopping-place I went back to the 
other wagon ; and Mr. Emerson, as he spied 
me approaching, called out to me in dis- 
tress : " These ladies are traducing the 
memory of that saint, H. ! " They had, in- 
deed, pitched upon some foible of the good 
man, and were indulging in levity ; but Mr. 
Emerson stood up for him with an amused 
sturdiness ; and afterwards at Stockton, at 
dinner, when the matter was referred to, 
he shook his head and laughed : "I con- 
sider myself the least of the lovers of H. ; 
but you shocked me." At Stockton we 
walked about the town. Outside, on the 
plains, it had been burned and dry ; but the 
town was full of greenness and of fresh and 
animating sights, and the windmills, like 
butterflies, were fluttering on every side. 
The dwelling-houses were generally small, 


A IVcsiern "journey 

and of wood ; but each had its pump and 
windmill, and its yard or garden, that 
was kept green and bright from constant 

On the next day. May 15, we returned 
by rail to San Francisco, and were there 
at noon. We were to leave for the East in 
four days. These days Mr. Emerson pre- 
ferred to pass in the city, — and indeed he 
was kept there in preparing for some lect- 
ures. He was curious to see the theatre 
of the roughs, — the lowest thing in the city, 
the " place," he said, " where the miners 
went." W. and I went with him. But 
all through the early hours of the evening 
the performance was flat and dreary ; and 
he was tired out, and went home early. 
P On Wednesday evening, May 17, he 
lectured upon Chivalry, — a disapjMiinting 
address, which he had extemporized from t 
certain fragments, — having failed to find J 

With Mr. Emerson. 121 

one of his best lectures that had beenr 
brought along, but lay hidden somewhere^ 
in his trunk. On Thursday, after sitting, 
at the request of some friends, for his 
photograph, he went on a beautiful drive, 
with Dr. Stebbins, along the San Bruno ^ 
Road. In the evening he lectured at\ 
Oakland on " Hospitality." After his re- 
turn that evening I found him in the sup- 
per-room of our hotel, bright and happy. 
He had seen at Oakland a relative, and 
an Englishman whom he had met in 
London, and Mr. Durant, the president of 
the University. The latter told him that 
he had heard his college part, fifty years 
before, at Commencement. " I tried," said 
Mr. Emerson, " to make him think that it 
was one of ipy brothers ; but he insisted. 
It tries the credulity of the present genera- 
tion to think of it ! " I went with him to 
his room, and he wrote to Dr. Stebbins a 

( '^ 

122 A Western Journey, 

letter of introduction for a lady, then in 
some straits, whom he had formerly known 
at home ; she had met him here, and asked 
this favor : " I have seen her," he wrote, 
"at Sargent*s and Bartol's, and such ven- 
erable places." 

The next day. May 19, Mr. Emerson, 
with most of the party, began the return 
journey by going to Lake Tahoe, up in 
the Sierra Nevada. I lingered a day or 
two longer in San Francisco until the 
"Huron "was ready, and then joined the 
party, and we came rapidly home. There 
was no longer occasion to write letters, 
and I have no notes of this part of the 


I REPRINT from the Boston "Daily 
Advertiser" of Dec. ii, 1883, a com- 
munication which was called out by Mat- 
thew Arnold's lecture on Emerson, first 
delivered, a little before that time, in Bos- 
ton. The lecture has now been printed in 
"Macmillan's Magazine" for May, 1884. 

The delivery of it here caused a great 
deal of unfavorable comment among those 
who cared particularly for Emerson and 
his writings. This was not altogether 
strange. The sentiment which Emerson- 
inspired in his admirers went very deep. 


Matthew Arnold's 

even in those who had never seen him ; 
it was like personal affection for a near 
friend. If criticism was to be made, they 
could not well bear that it should come 
from any but themselves ; if others were 
to criticise acceptably, they must do it 
with singular tact. Certain things these 
persons knew; their own experience and 
that of others attested the extraordinary 
power of Emerson's words, both in prose 
and verse, — his printed, as well as his 
spoken, words. It seemed, therefore, an 
intolerable thing that Mr. Arnold should 
rise up and say that Emerson was not in 
any department a great writer. 

Moreover Mr. Arnold's remarks bore 
little sign of any anxious solicitude to 
commend them by the manner in which 
they were expressed ; indeed, in point of 
manner, there was much that seemed to 
these listeners strangely unfortunate. The 

Lecture on Emerson. 125 

lecturer's criticisms began with prolonged 
depreciation ; his hearers grew depressed, 
and knew not where they were to come 
out. They had not, in listening, the valu- 
able opportunity which the readers of Mr. 
Arnold's paper may now have, of running 
the eye forward and backward from time 
to time, and so of correcting a wrong im- 
pression, and assuring themselves of the 
author's precise meaning and his main 
drift. Emerson appeared to be set before 
them in the unfamiliar attitude of a mere 
literary man or philosophy-maker, and then 
disparaged by comparison with literary per- 
sonages and constructors of philosophy with 
whom it seemed quite incongruous to com- 
pare him. "The infelicitous presentation 
of his subject," wrote one of Mr. Arnold's 
critics of the class whose sentiments I am 
now expressing, a very able and distin- 
guished man, " the mal-arrangement of his 


Matthew Arnold's 

thoughts concerning it, gives the impression 
of a verdict less favorable than the author 
intended. By arranging his negatives in 
the front of his lecture he preoccupies the 
minds of his hearers with the feeling of an 
adverse judgment which subsequent enco- 
miums do not quite neutralize." And he 
added : " His proposed abatements of lit- 
erary merit in our countryman are less ob- 
jectionable than the grounds on which they 
are based." These unacceptable things, also, 
were said with a displeasing assurance, 
as if the questions were closed, and the 
final judgment of mankind had now been 
uttered; and this, as a mere point of manner, 
troubled many. Add to this the fact that 
there were a few remarks — such as the 
story of the Americans who found Emerson I 
"too greeny for them" — which disturbed by J 
their triviality and questionable taste, and \ 
which, in truth, were not well in keeping J 

Lecture on Emerson. 127 

with that mood of one " communing with 
Time and Nature about the productions of 
this rare and beautiful spirit," of which Mr. 
Arnold had so finely spoken. 

When at length the lecturer turned, and 
began to praise, some who were familiar 
with Emerson's writings seemed to per- 
ceive indications that the commendation 
came from a too limited knowledge and 
apprehension of these writings, and from 
a remembered rather than a living and still 
operative impression of their power. And 
the persons whose impressions I am stat- 
ing pointed to the effect of the lecture upon 
hearers who, for one reason or another, 
had never been reached by Emerson's in- 
fluence ; such people would occasionally be 
heard saying, as they came away from the 
lecture : " Well, I am glad to hear that ! I 
never <a&*<ar think much of Emerson.** There 
seemed reason, then, in the complaint, that 


Matthew Arnold's 

the intended emphasis of the lecture, as a 
lecture, as something to be listened to, 
had somehow got misplaced, and that the 
speaker's commendation had not really 
succeeded in keeping its head above the 
flood o£ his dispraise. 

I have spoken of the feeling excited by 
Mr. Arnold's lecture among many of the 
lovers of Emerson. Few of them, I think, 
were able to accept it as wholly satisfac- 
tory. But yet many, while sympathizing 
more or less fully with the feelings and 
opinions which I have indicated, still per- 
ceived in Mr. Arnold's lecture an essay 
which, although not by any means one of his 
best, was yet not unworthy of him ; a fine 
and beautiful essay, the best public attempt 
yet made towards a calm and just estimate 
of our admired and beloved, yet often puz- 
zhng author, and one likely on both sides 
of the water to spread his influence. They 

Lecture on Emerson, 129 

recognized the genuineness of Mr. Arnold's 
admiration for Emerson, the correctness of 
his opinion as to the sort of greatness that 
belonged to him, and the general justness 
of his discriminations ; and they Were not 
to be set back by certain considerable 
defects in the details, and also in the 
substance, of his treatment. 

The letter which follows was written 
from the point of view last indicated. The 
purpose of it did not call for any attempt 
at a full estimate of Emerson's genius. I 
should not think of reprinting it now if it 
were not that some things are emphasized 
in it which appear to me important for a 
correct understanding of his writings. I 
am the rather moved to reprint it because 
on reading Mr. Arnold's paper, I cannot 
think that he has adequately recognized 
the considerations to which I allude. Per- 
haps Mr. Arnold's comparison of Emerson 


130 Matthew Arnold's 

to Marcus Aurelius marks, as well as any- 
thing which could be cited, the serious 
defect in question. Marcus Aurelius was 
not a man possessed: Emerson was. There 
is in Emerson an inflaming religious qual- 
ity which searches the soul of his reader 
with singular power; his morals are not 
merely morals, they are morals on fire. 

[From the Boston Daily Advertiser of December 11, 1883.] 
To the Editors of the Boston Daily Advertiser : 

Will you permit me, as one who has for 
many years read and admired Emerson, 
to express a hearty dissent from your 
article upon the subject of Mr. Arnold's 
lecture? That lecture appeared to me to 
be a thoughtful, sincere, and valuable 
effort at a just, critical estimate of our 

Lecture on Emerson. 131 

great man. There are few writers in the 
English language with anything like the 
qualifications which Mr. Arnold brings to 
such a task. I count it much that so sub- 
tle a critic, an Englishman, standing to us 
like posterity, — shedding all enthusiasms, 
and insisting, as he says, upon "judging 
Emerson only by the highest standards," 
and, even so, leaning to the strictest esti- 
mate, — has come out where he has. 

Of course literature, mere literature, 
takes account of form as well as matter. 
Judged as literature, the critic tells us that 
neither Mr. Emerson^s prose nor verse can 
rank with the great things of the world. 
He adds that, as a maker of philosophy, 
Emerson cannot be classed with the great 
philosophers of the world. But when this 
has been said he has given up " to envious 
Time as much of Emerson as he can ever 
expect to obtain." The essays are the 


Mattheiv Arnold's 

most important prose works of the century 
in the English language. "You cannot 
prize him too much, nor heed him too 

Such is the estimate. In its main lines 
it seems to me just. We admirers of Mr. 
Emerson are quite too apt to forget how 
hard it is for the mass of readers to get at 
him, or to see why people should much 
like his verse, or should set his prose as 
high as they do. Arnold will help them 
to get at him, and to see why ; and in doing 
this he will do for them, and for Emerson 
also, an incalculable benefit. It is not as 
philosophy, in any ordinary sense of the 
term, and it is not as mere literature, that 
Emerson is so highly valued ; it is on 
other grounds. 

What was it that Emerson set himself 
to do ? He left the pulpit, not because he 
no longer wished to preach, but because , 

Lecture on Emerson. 133 

he was not willing to preach under the 
limitations of that place. He continued 
all his life to be a preacher, a proclaimer 
of spiritual truth, a teacher of the moral 
law. He was flooded and full to overflow- 
ing all through his life with a sense of the 
presence, the omnipresence, and the in- 
stant operation of what he called "the over- 
soul." His apprehension and acceptance 
of this was no merely intellectual matter; 
it was something that penetrated into the 
substance of his being, and moved him 
like a vital force ; it was this, with its re- 
lated beliefs, that gave such power to his 
speech and such charm to his character, 
as of one who had already entered upon 
the immortal life; so that those who knew 
him intimately seemed to perceive what 
it was that the phrase of Scripture meant 
when it said of the Almighty that he " in- 
habited eternity." The truth that he saw, 


Matthew Arnold's 

the powerful impulse that he felt, the 
inflaming inspiration that moved him, were 
not the sort of things that the man of 
letters ordinarily has to handle ; and they 
induced methods very different from the 
common. These things were difficult to 
grasp ; only to be reached in rare moments; 
not to be adequately shadowed forth, unless 
when the mood was on. These high and 
delicate matters were to be set down when 
he saw them and as he saw them ; they 
must be communicated, if indeed he might 
hope to communicate them, by picture, by 
symbol, by some far-darting gleam of im- j 
aginative phrase. He wrote almost always,,! 

'let it be noticed, what was to be read byi| 
himself to public audiences ; and his oracu-j 
lar words had the aid of that thrilling^ 
voice, of those most meaning hints of era-1 

•phasis and pause and accent, of that nobltifl 
face and demeanor, which are so well i 

Lecture on Emerson. 135 

membered. / So long as he could make, 
to use his own phrase, " a clean transcript 
of his own mind ; " so long as he could 
put his thought into compact, powerful, 
imaginative utterance, — he would not 
imperil the freshness and truth of it by 
any effort at a literary setting, by elabo- 
rating the approaches to it, or attending 
to its due evolution, or seeking to bring 
his reader safely and gently back again 
to earth. 

Of his poems, too, the same sort of thing 
is to be said. Are we to suppose that Mr. 
Emerson devoted himself to the art of 
verse, as the great writers in that kind 
have done ? When Mr. Arnold speaks of 
the " great poets,'* he is thinking doubtless 
of those who have sought to add the charm 
of perfect form to what they had to say. 
It was but seldom that Mr. Emerson 
aimed at this. He used verse not as the 

136 Matthew Arnold's 

literary artists use it, seeking to polish and 
refine to the utmost the medium of expres- 
sion which they have chosen. Mainly he 
threw himself into the effort to reach an 
adequate expression of his thought. We 
seem to see his reason for choosing to 
speak in verse when we find him saying 
that " Rhyme, being a kind of music, 
shares this advantage with music, that it 
has a privilege of speaking truth which all 
Philistia is unable to challenge. . . . With 
the first note of the flute or horn, or the 
first strain of a song, we quit the world of 
common sense, and launch on the sea of 
ideas and emotions ; we pour contempt on 
the prose you so magnify: yet the sturdiest 
Philistine is silent. The like allowance 
is the prescriptive right of poetry. You 
shall not speak ideal truth in prose uncon- 
tradicted ; you may in verse." Beautiful, 
strong, great passages, and several noble 

Lecture on Emerson. 137 

poems did, indeed, come out of this. If 
one looks at the matter which it was 
sought to express, it is of the greatest, 
and often is enough of itself to glorify the 
halting lines. But in the main, as Mr. 
Emerson did not seek, so he has not at- 
tained, that supreme excellence of great 
poetry where sense and sound are married 
in an immortal harmony. 

Again, Mr. Arnold says that Emer- 
son " is not a great philosophy-maker." 
This is not saying anything that should 
surprise one. I am rather surprised that 
it should be thought necessary to say it at 
all. " Strictly speaking," says Mr. G. W. 
Cooke, in his account of Emerson, " Emer- 
son is not a philosopher." That is true 
enough ; he was no otherwise a philosopher 
than as every great and wise moralist and 
spiritual teacher is to be deemed a philoso- 
pher. And I do not think that Mr. Arnold 

138 Matthew Arnold's 

is right in saying that he " is the pro- 
pounder of a philosophy " at all. Whoever 
finds philosophy in Mr. Emerson must 
construct it for himself ; he propounded 

Well, then, if all this be true, why com- 
plain so much of Mr. Arnold } If it be 
said that his essay has defects and infe- 
licities both in substance and in form, that 
may be conceded. He does not mark at 
all plainly, in making his comparisons, any 
apprehension of the difference between the 
aim and the subject-matter of such a man 
as Addison or Gray on the one hand, and 
Emerson on the other ; or any perception 
on his part of a certain incongruity in the 
comparison of these names. Difference 
of subject-matter and of aim leads, of 
course, to different methods ; if Emerson 
is to be estimated as mere literature, it 
seems a fair suggestion that he should 

Lect7ire on Emerson. 139 

be weighed with men of like subject and 

It may be conceded also that Mr. Arnold 
has not signified any due appreciation of 
Mr. Emerson's very extraordinary powers 
of expression. He was a great master in 
this art ; no one, perhaps, ever saw more 
deeply into the nature and the secret of 
language than he, or knew how to use it 
more powerfully. It is only as touching 
the elaboration of continuous literary work- 
manship that it is to be conceded that 
Emerson is not a great writer ; this defect 
it is that Mr. Arnold indicates in saying 
that his style has not " the requisite whole- 
ness of good tissue." 

Finally, I think it may be confessed that 
Mr. Arnold did not, either by what he 
said or what he quoted, indicate as plainly 
as he might why it is that Emerson is to 
be placed so high. He leaves on one the 

I40 Matthew Arnold's 

impression of speaking from a funded en- 
thusiasm, so to speak, rather than from a 
fresh and present apprehension of what 
he is saying. To " return upon " a writer 
who has powerfully affected one is hke 
returning upon one's own higher moods ; 
it is a thing not to be done merely when 
one wills to do it, not to be done on every 
day or in every condition. 

But allowing all this, shall one wait till 
he can assent to all that another says be- 
fore he admires and applauds ? After all 
allowances, it remains true that Mr. Arnold 
has given us, as I said, a criticism of our 
great man which, although gravely defec- 
tive and inadequate, is in its main lines 
sound and good. Mr, Emerson was not 
a great literary artist, either in prose or 
verse; he was not a great maker of phi- 
losophy; he was not a philosopher at all, 
in any just sense of that word : but he was 

Lecture on Emerson, 141 

a seer, a prophet, a great recorder of spirit- 
ual truth, a great teacher and ** friend and 
helper of those who would live in the 
spirit," — comparable, indeed, only with 
the greatest names. 

J. B. T. 
Cambridge, Dec. 10, 1883. 

University Press : John Wilson & Son, Cambridge. 

3 tiDS oo^ saasat